There can be few ‘lifer’ related quests more debilitating and frustrating than trying to connect with a silent ‘will o’ the wisp’ somewhere in the fathomless depths of a tropical forest in the non-breeding season, where sunlight and shadow play tricks on the eye in a verdant world of stillness and meditative tranquillity, shattered only by the hysterical whooping of buttress bashing chimps hell bent on creating manic chaos for the sheer cussedness of creating a commotion  in response to one’s presence…

Green-breasted Pitta, Kibale Forest in Uganda

Green-breasted Pitta, Kibale Forest in Uganda

Pondering deep silence as a birding collective again… Ears pricked for audible cues as to a pitta-patter in the thickly vegetated understorey. Eyes alert to the slightest flicker of foliage movement around us in the growing light of dawn.

Nothing, absolutely nothing to be heard, save the agonisingly slow ticking of time and an exasperating touch of growing impatience,  while waiting for something exciting to happen to break the verdant spell of ‘fifty  shades of green’ around us.

And then, in the form of a low hominid whistle from our forest guide deep in the undergrowth beyond, events started to unfold as we made our way through patches of dry leaves and dead branches to the sound source, audibly and encouragingly indicating a visual sighting of the avian gemstone we were after.

Suddenly a blur of intensive colour erupted out of the gloomy recess and bounced into full view no more than ten yards from us. A mesmerising iridescent blaze of scarlet intensity and cobalt blue spots in full view with a diffused pastel green chest in affirmative confirmation of diagnostic identity!

Green-breasted Pitta - back view

Green-breasted Pitta – back view

Instant recognition of this rotund, broad-winged and tailless thrush-like bird had my camera up in a state of photographic panic as I tried to super-correct for half-light, low speed and focal distance as I ‘fired’ away frenetically in the split-second presented before the pitta evaporated from view in a royal blue flash.

The ensuing eruption and tirade of verbal abuse directly behind me that followed my ‘ grossly unacceptable act of extreme self-indulgence and lack of mindfulness for others’’ threatened the very foundation of a long and harmonious relationship with my regular birding partner and, up until that moment, lawfully wedded wife, exceeded the cacophony of chimp abuse directed at our presence earlier…

Indeed I had ‘deliberately’ blocked her much sought after pitta sighting by my selfish presence and from now on would have to live out a life of purgatory on Earth until I secured and presented a more than acceptable sighting for joint  appreciation and future harmony…

And so it was with successive sightings of fore and after views of this little-known and visually stunning secretive resident of unsurpassed beauty found in the forests of Western Uganda….

Green-breasted Pitta - front view

Green-breasted Pitta – front view


This birding tour in Western Uganda was a joint Avian Leisure / Birding in Paradise adventure. Johnnie Kamugisha of Birding in Paradise was our very competent and delightful bird guide for the duration of the tour, assisted by Gerald for the successful Pitta search in Kibale Forest.

For more info on this search and searches for other rare and beautiful birds, contact Patrick or Marie-Louise on or browse our website


PJC/Avian Leisure. 13/03/16