Black-faced Pitta Pitta anerythra


Justification of Red List Category
The conservation status of this species is not well understood. It has been categorised as Vulnerable on the basis of its very small known population. Further research may show the population to be declining, in which case it would warrant uplisting to a higher threat category. 

Population justification
The population is precautionarily estimated to number 250-999 mature individuals based on an assessment of known records, negative records, descriptions of abundance, range size and the likelihood that only a proportion of the estimated Extent of Occurrence is likely to be occupied.

Trend justification
There are no data on population trends; however, it has not been found on two (out of three) islands within its range so it may have declined overall.

Distribution and population

Pitta anerythra is endemic to Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and Choiseul and Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands. It was formerly reasonably common, at least on Bougainville, where 40 specimens were collected before 1938 (Erritzoe and Erritzoe 1998). It was then not recorded until 1994 when it was found to be fairly common at Tirotonga on Santa Isabel (Gibbs 1996), with up to three birds heard calling simultaneously (Gibbs in litt 1994, Gibbs 1996, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998). Searches and interviews on Choiseul and Bougainville (until the island became closed to visitors) have been unsuccessful (Gibbs in litt 1994, K. D. Bishop in litt. 1997, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998) until it was recorded on Choiseul in 2014 (Bosteo et al. 2016). 


At Tirotonga, it is found in primary forest, and also small forest remnants and regrowth thickets within a patchwork of gardens between 400-600 m. Here it is more common in the secondary thickets of the gardened areas and less common in large tracts of primary forest. Two nests found in 1998 were in tiny fragments of closed-canopy forest next to gardens and thickets, one in 1999 was in primary forest (M. Hafe verbally 1998, 1999). In the 1920s and 1930s, the Whitney expeditions found this species in forested mountain valleys and coastal and alluvial plains (Rothschild and Hartert 1905, Mayr 1945).


At Tirotonga, it occurs beside settlements with cats, dogs and rats which may indicate that it is not susceptible to introduced mammalian predators (Gibbs in litt 1994, Gibbs 1996, G. Dutson pers. obs. 1998, M. Hafe verbally 1998, 1999). However, the lack of recent records from Bougainville is concerning (K. D. Bishop in litt. 1997). It may have a very patchy distribution or it may have declined severely away from Tirotonga. Some of the historical specimens were taken in alluvial valleys (Mayr 1945) and this habitat is threatened by the extensive logging of lowland forests. Lowland hill forests across Choiseul and Santa Isabel continue to be extensively logged (e.g. Katovai et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway

Conservation Actions Proposed
Search for this species away from Tirotonga with the aid of tape-recordings. Survey Bougainville once the island opens to research. Interview inland villagers across its range. Monitor numbers calling around Tirotonga. Map occurrences around Tirotonga in relation to forest-types. Investigate basic ecology at Tirotonga. Aid establishment and marketing of ecotourism at Tirotonga. Initiate public awareness programmes, initially on Santa Isabel.


15 cm. Typical pitta with prominent sky-blue wing-coverts. Bright green upperparts, warm buff underparts. Black mask encircles face and variably across forehead. Similar spp. No other pitta is known from the range but vagrant Hooded Pitta P. sordida and Noisy Pitta P. versicolor are possible. Voice Single or double rasping tooyiii. Hints Very wary. Calls from high perches.


Text account compilers
Derhé, M., Dutson, G., Mahood, S., O'Brien, A., Stattersfield, A.

Hafe, M., Gibbs, D., Iles, M., Dutson, G., Bishop, K.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Pitta anerythra. Downloaded from on 04/07/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 04/07/2020.