An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

  1. Pitta_nest__c__graeme_chapman Pitta nest (c) Graeme Chapman
  2. Pitta_iris_flickr_dave_curtis_01.07.2013 Rainbow Pitta. Flickr; Dave Curtis.

Rainbow Pitta

Pitta iris


Small native bird, 16-18cm with a black head and breast, electric blue shoulder patches and white wing spots. Upperparts bright olive-green, sometimes a silvery green-blue. Only pitta in Darwin region, and Australia’s only pitta with a black head and breast.

Nest is loose, interwoven sticks and dead vines, usually dome-shaped but can be cup, with entrance at side or near top. Can be in fork, on branch, against butress root on the ground, from ground level to 8 metres above.


Feeds on a wide range of invertebrates, and occasionally on frogs and small skinks. Breeding occurs from late October to early March. Pairs are monogamous, and can raise two broods in a single season. Four eggs are lain that are incubated for 14 days. Both sexes share maternal responsibilities.

Call ID: brisk ‘we-wik-to-wik’ and high-pitched ‘kiew’

What to Observe

  • Presence

  • Courting/Mating

  • Calling

  • Nest

  • Bird on chicks, eggs or nest

  • Feeding young

ClimateWatch Science Advisor

We expect birds to start breeding and singing earlier in the year as a result of climate change warming the Earth. They may also start appearing in new areas as warmer temperatures and reduced precipitation impact suitable habitat for the Rainbow Pitta. 

Help scientists answer the question: "How are our animals, plants and ecosystems responding to climate change?"

When To Look

All year round. Breeding occurs during late October to early March

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes in the timing of these events so remember to keep a lookout all year!


Where To Look

Northern WA and NT; East Point, Howard Springs and Fogg Dam are reliable places. This species occupies coastal and subcoastal areas where there is plenty of moisture, and protection from fire.

Note: ClimateWatch is looking for any changes outside of their known ranges so remember to keep a lookout beyond these regions too!

Rainbow Pitta compiled distribution map - BirdLife International


Rainbow Pitta compiled distribution map -  BirdLife International



  • Pizzey, G, Knight, F 2007, The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney, Australia, Harper Collins Publishers, p 330
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017-3
  • Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) 2018, Australia’s species; Rainbow Pitta
  • BirdLife Australia; Nosy Pitta
  • Experts consulted: ClimateWatch Science Advisory Panel


  1. Search Species

  1. What Else?

    The Rainbow Pitta is unlikely to be confused with any other bird in the NT region. The Noisy Pitta occurs in eastern coastal Australia from Torres Strait south to Hunter Region of NSW and will not have a black head and breast.

  1. Did You Know?

    The population is suspected to be in decline owing to deterioration of monsoon forests caused by fires and habitat degradation caused by feral cattle