Species Profile: Hooded Pitohui

pitohui

Hooded Pitohui pitohui dichrous

Description:

Endemic to New Guinea, this black and orange bird has been found to contain batrachotoxins on its skin and feathers. These are the same toxins found in Colombia’s poison dart frogs and are one of the most toxic natural substances known to science. They are one of six species of pitohui birds but have been placed in the genus oriolidae while others were placed in pachycephalidae or incertae sedis.

Where to Find:

The hooded pitohui is quite common in New Guinea and can be found throughout the region.

Conservation Status:

Least concern as it is rather common and not hunted as it is considered a “trash” bird not to be eaten due to its toxic nature.

Interesting Facts: 

  • Thought to get its toxicity from eating melyrid beetles which then transfers into its uropygial gland and applied to its skin and feathers.
  • Its plumage color acts as a warning that it is poisonous much like a monarch butterfly
  • New Guinea tribes have still eaten the toxic bird although it must be prepared properly to avoid contamination.
  • Other birds such as the Spur Winged Goose and Common Quail have also been found to contain poisons also most likely acquired from their diets.
  • The once abundant Carolina Parakeet of the United States was also thought to be poisonous. It was thought that John James Audubon tested this theory by feeding one to his dog. Sadly the last known Carolina Parakeet died in the same place as the last known passenger pigeon passed away, the Cincinnati Zoo.

Photo By: markaharper1

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Author: Michael Jerrard

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