Whiskered Pitta Erythropitta kochi


Justification of Red List category
This species has been downlisted from Vulnerable because the rate of population decline is not suspected to be as rapid as previously thought, based on the level of threat to montane forest. It is nevertheless listed as Near Threatened on the basis that it is undergoing a moderately rapid population decline owing to on-going habitat loss and hunting pressure.

Population justification
The population size is preliminarily estimated to fall into the band for 10,000-19,999 mature individuals. This equates to 15,000-29,999 individuals in total, rounded here to 15,000-30,000 individuals.

Trend justification
Forest habitat has been extensively cleared in much of the Sierra Madre and Cordillera Central mountain ranges of Luzon; together with hunting pressure, this is suspected to be causing a moderately rapid decline in the species's population.

Distribution and population

Pitta kochi is endemic to Luzon in the Philippines, where it is restricted to the mountains of the Cordillera Central and the Sierra Madre in the north, and the Bicol region in the south (BirdLife International 2001). Formerly judged to be rare and local overall, there have been a number of records, from at least 13 widely spread localities, since 1990. Although recent survey evidence shows it to be locally common and there are regular sightings in some of the known localities, including Hamut Camp near Mt Cetaceo in the Sierra Madre (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012, C. Gooddie in litt. 2014), it is presumably declining overall, and populations in Bicol are likely to be highly threatened (D. Allen in litt. 2007, 2012).


It chiefly inhabits montane forest, tolerating degraded and selectively logged areas. Records span a wide altitudinal range (360-2,200 m), with highest densities found at 900-1,400 m. It appears to prefer closed-canopy, primary montane, oak dominated forest, frequently on steep slopes. Its movements are poorly understood. Records from south Luzon (which may refer to wintering individuals) suggest that there is some intra-island migration.


The chief threat is habitat loss, compounded locally by hunting with snares. In 1988, an estimated 24% of Luzon remained forested. In the Cordillera Central, montane forest is threatened by logging, agricultural encroachment and mining (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Large areas in the southern Cordillera Central have been converted for cultivation, and the species is likely to be rare or locally extinct there; however, the northern Cordillera Central is sparsely populated, and there are large areas of undisturbed forest. Surveys indicate that the species is not presently threatened by forest conversion in Apayao province (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Forest cover in the Sierra Madre has declined by 83% since the 1930s; however, illegal logging activities in the Sierra Madre target lowland tree species, rather than montane species, and there is reportedly no agricultural encroachment above 800 m in the northern Sierra Madre, suggesting that the species could be secure there (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). At Hamut Camp, forest cover remains very good from c.500m and above, although hunting pressure from local trappers remains a problem (C. Gooddie in litt. 2014). In Isabela Province and most of Cagayan Province, montane forest is covered by strict protection zones in and, although law enforcement is weak, there is reported to be no direct threat to montane forest, as both loggers and farmers do not convert high elevation areas in the Sierra Madre (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012). Major road-building plans pose a further threat. Several key sites are suffering serious habitat degradation (e.g. Mt Diapalayag, Maria Aurora Memorial Natural Park and Mt Isarog). Snaring is a problem in some areas, such as Mt Polis (D. Allen in litt. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. It occurs in a number of protected areas, including the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, Mt Isarog and Mt Pulog National Parks and the Maria Aurora Memorial Natural Park. All forest above 1,100 m elevation is protected by law, and there are additional strict protection zones for montane forest in Isabela province and most of Cagayan province, although law enforcement is often weak (M. van Weerd in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to quantify the species's population size. Monitor rates of habitat loss through remote sensing. Research its ecological requirements (to identify its optimal habitat), conduct comparative studies of breeding regimes in the Cordillera Central and Sierra Madre, and investigate its migratory habits/dispersive capability, to facilitate conservation planning. Extend the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park to incorporate Mt Los Dos Cuernos. Following consultation with indigenous people, formally protect further key sites (e.g. Mts Cagua, Cetaceo, Polis and the Angat watershed).


21 cm. Brightly-coloured, ground-dwelling passerine. Brown fore-crown, rusty-orange rear crown and nape. Dark olive-brown ear-coverts bordered below by broad, pinkish malar stripe and darker sub-malar area. Blue breast, rest of underparts scarlet. Dull olive-green upperparts except for blue rump and wing patch. Long, greyish-blue legs. Stout, dark bill. Juvenile is brown, spotted paler on breast. Shows pale malar area. Similar spp. Red-bellied Pitta P. erythrogaster is smaller and lacks pale malar. Voice Pigeon-like series of five to nine short woo notes which descend in pitch and accelerate. Hints Best located by call.


Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Bird, J., Davidson, P., Lowen, J., Mahood, S., Peet, N., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.

Allen, D., Gooddie, C. & van Weerd, M.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Erythropitta kochi. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/whiskered-pitta-erythropitta-kochi on 25/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 25/09/2023.