How to photograph a rainbow pitta

The rainbow pitta is a stunning bird found in some parts of Kakadu National Park. It’s one that twitchers are often looking for and as a result it’s great to be able to get a picture. But I’m not going to lie – this can be a difficult task.

Step 1. Find an area where they can be seen. I suggest the Manngarre rainforest walk along the East Alligator River as a nice easy one to start.

Step 2. Change into comfortable clothing – camouflage is recommended. Bring an impossibly expensive camera with a ridiculously long lens.

Step 3. Locate a spot with lots of leaf litter – a place where they might rummage for food.

Step 4. Remain in position very quietly despite the repeated attacks from the millions of mosquitoes surrounding you.

Step 5. After many hours a rainbow pitta may appear.

Step 6. Get the shot!

Step 7. Be disappointed when you realise that the photo didn’t work out because of bad lighting, movement of the camera, subject moving too fast, etc.

Step 8. Repeat.

So, why bother? Good question! This image is one reason to put yourself through all of that effort. It really is worth it in the end!

Kristen Sierke, Seasonal ranger, Kakadu National Park

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2 thoughts on “How to photograph a rainbow pitta

  1. Good for you Kristen. That is a good shot. I did the same at the South Alligator rainforest where the birds are much shyer as they don’t see so many humans – but I tried something different. First its was the old mirror trick. Inching along on my belly in camo clothes, surrounded by a friendly cloud of mossies, while trying to angle a small mirror just so – so that the bird would see himself and come closer. But that was a waste of time, so I don’t recommend that. Next idea was the old cardboard cut out – carefully painted to look like a male pitta. This was embarrassing. 20 minutes of inching around on my stomach caused me to intersect the walking trail without my realising it. Suddenly – as I was bouncing the cardboard cut out in a most enticing manner – a sound from behind – and a group of perplexed elderly tourists stood over me wondering what on earth they had discovered!
    In the end I found that tapping the leaf litter three times mimics the sound of a Pitta hopping around. That noise is more likely to get their attention than anything else.

    One thing I learned, don’t use a flash as it burns out every stick and leaf between you and the bird. Have you got anymore good pics like that?

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