Birds of poison

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There are many poisonous insects and reptiles all over the world. But have you ever heard of a bird that can be poisonous? The Hooded Pitohui  is a songbird found in the rain forests of New Guinea and island which lies in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Indonesia. There are around six species of Pitohui  of which the Hooded Pitohui is the most deadly.

Deadly beauty

The first poisonous bird to be documented the Hooded Pitohui is a pretty bird with a brick red belly and black head. It has strong legs and a powerful beak. The bird’s bright colours are an example of aposematism or warning colours.

A newrotoxin called Homobatrachotoxin is found in its skin and feathers. A scratch or a sharp jab from its beak can make us go numb. If a large amount of this poison goes into our body, it can lead to paralaysis and probably death. Feather lice too stay away from the Pitohui as Homobatrachotoxin  is the most poisonous of all naturally occurring substances.download

The Hooded pitohuilike the Poison Dart Frogs of Columbia  gets its poison from the food that it eats the poisonous Choresine beetles. Declared to be the Most poisonous bird by the Guinness Book of World Records it was discovered in 1989 by Jack Dumbacher who was netting birds in New Guinea. Being a sociable bird that loved to flock with other birds a couple of Hooded Pitohui let themselves be caughtin the net. When Dumbacher tried to hold one it gave him a vicious bite on his finger. On nursing his hurt finger by sucking on it, he found to his horror that his tongue and lips had turned numb.

There are a few other birds that have chemical mechanisms to defend themselves but this is the first bird that is dangerous to man. It is not advisable to eat these birds but when food is scarce the people of New Guinea eat the bird which they term as the Garbage bird as it gives a foul odour when cooked. The tribes of New Guinea believe that the Pitohui can be eaten only after a period of mourning for the dead bird. The skin and feathers are removed and the flesh is coated with charcoal and then roasted.

COURTESY     YOUNG WORLD   THE HINDU

 

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