Pitta-like Ground Roller

Madagascar is a large island in the Indian Ocean, where endemic life abounds. For bird lovers, it is renowned for its magnificent bird species, as well as assortments of chameleons and different varieties of lemurs.

The Pitta-like Ground Roller, scientifically known as Atelornis pittoides, belongs to the Brachypteraciidae family. This endemic bird to Madagascar is characterized by its monotypic trait.

The Pitta-like Ground Roller was described in 1834 by Frédéric de Lafresnaye. It is name pittoides after the pittas, which is another bird family, unrelated to the passerine birds.
The pitta-like ground roller is small in size, measuring less than 30 cm in length and weighing between 80 and 120 grams. It has a cobalt-blue head, a black mask, and a white throat. Its throat is bordered in blue. This seasonal bird looks amazing with its green upperparts, and its underparts are dominantly light brown. The pitta-like ground roller has a black tail and light legs.
The pitta-like ground roller inhabits mainly the eastern parts of Madagascar. Therefore, this endemic bird can be spotted in rainforests, ranging from 800 m to over 2,000 m (6,600 ft) in altitude, this non-migratory bird can be also found in degraded secondary forest areas, but not in large numbers.
Being a terrestrial bird, the pitta-like ground roller feeds mainly on such insects as grasshoppers, ants, butterflies, and beetles. It is also observed that they eat cockroaches, worms, and butterfly eggs. Bigger ones can prey on chameleons and frogs. Amazingly, it has subtle hunting techniques, starting by observing its prey in a motionless position, before snatching on the prey.

The best time to spot this amazingly colorful bird is between October and February. Yet, a guide is needed to locate the pitta-like ground roller, because it does not nest on trees. Instead, it lays its nest in a hole that it dugs into an earth bank. According to the bird’s size, the hole ranges from 50 cm to 100 cm (20–39 inches) deep, which ends in a chamber 20 cm (7.9 in) in diameter.

During the incubation period, the male feeds the female, and once the eggs are hatched, both feed the chicks.

The best way to discover birds in Madagascar is through a travel agency. Nowadays, you can join birding tours online. Safari-Madagascar for example has yearly bird-watching tours that you can join. For a shorter visit, you can go on a 13-day birding safari in Madagascar’s rainforests.

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