Pittas of the World
by Johannes and Helga Erritzoe
Sponsored by the Carlsberg Foundation, Copenhagen
There are 30 different species of pittas, most of them in South-east Asia, the Philippines, Australia and Borneo, but two species are found in Africa. Their habitat, the rain forest, is under threat and many species are therefore endangered.
This monograph breaks with tradition in a number of ways:
The book also describes a study of a little-known feature, dusky stripes, unique to the pitta family, which has never before been described in detail, and a unique moulting pattern: immature birds moulting into their adult plumage are often found with bald heads and necks.
The research on this book has taken 4 years with 4½ months visits to the British Museum in Tring, New York, Berlin, Leiden and Copenhagen. 3,200 photos of pitta skins, a thorough plumage description and colour determination by means of a colour guide with 1,400 different colours, and many thousands measurements were taken. All information on the skin labels and egg catalogues was also recorded. Moreover, study skins were borrowed from many other museums.
The beautiful colour illustrations are painted in gouache by Helga Boullet Erritzoe, using a dry-brush technique. Each plate has been meticulously laid out to enhance the characteristics of each species. All plates are cross-referenced to the text, which contains details of age and sex of the bird, and specifies the museum where the depicted bird-skin is kept, with its registration number. In order to learn the postures and behaviour of the pittas a live Fairy Pitta was kept in captivity for two years.
Whilst it will be of undoubted interest to amateur bird enthusiasts and pitta lovers, the book is also scientifically based and is therefore an invaluable and beautiful reference guide for ornithologists, conservationists, aviculturists, museums and collectors of fine bird-books.
years after the publication of an identification guide on Pittas, Broadbills
and Asities (Lambert & Woodcock 1996, Pica Press, Sussex), this monograph
on the Pitta family was published. After a very detailed chapter on the
Pitta familiy and its place within the Passeriformes there are 30 species
accounts, a key to the synonyms and new proposed names, a glossary, 5
appendices and an impressive bibliography (ca. 1300 references). Anyone
interested in Pittas should have this book. The texts are very well organised,
with clear headings and subdivisions, information on recent records (after
1975), habitat, vocalisations, food and feeding behaviour, breeding biology,
moult, biometrics, and worldwide museum holdings of skins. Perhaps not
expected in a book like this are sections on Pittas in captivity, which
include incredible details such as the survival of individuals on a diet
of Wayme dog food with vitamins and mixed with finely diced whole three-day-old
mice, or the co-existence for two months of a 40mm ground beetle with
a (Fairy) Pitta without being eaten, apparently because "Pittas are
not birds for the beginner in aviculture." This book is a must, because
if it isn't in the book, or cannot be found using the spectacular bibliography,
it is either unknown or not worth to be known. (CJC)
work was produced by individuals financially supporting themselves, their
science and art. Both author and artist are well established and known
in Denmark their first book in 1993 brought them to world attention.
To describe the book as "scientific based" is too modest. The nomenclature and description sections are treated with a rigour that should satisfy the most exacting taxonomist, and the general sections are enclyclopaedic in their coverage and must include every scrap of information ever published about these birds anywhere.
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