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Meet Pitohui, Ifrita and Rufous: The Most Poisonous Birds on Earth

Published by nobert soloria bermosa in Science
August 24th, 2008

Not all bird are edible. There are species of birds that are harmful not only to other animals but to humans as well. Here’s a list of poisonous birds.

The most venomous creatures on earth are fish and snakes. There are some species of amphibians and mammals that are known to be venomous but there are no known species of venomous bird. However, pitohui, ifrita and rufous are poisonous to eat or touch.

Pitohui

Pitohui is a genus of birds endemic to New Guinea, belonging to the family Pachycephalidae. Pitohuis are brightly colored, omnivorous birds. The skin and feathers of pitohuis contain powerful neurotoxic alkaloids of the batrachotoxin group. It is believed that these serve the birds as a chemical defense, either against ectoparasites or against visually guided predators such as snakes, raptors or humans. The birds do not produce batrachotoxin themselves that’s why they are not considered venomous but rather poisonous.

There are 6 species classified in this genus. The most notable species are the Hooded Pitohui and Variable Pitohui.

Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous)

(Source: National Geographic)

This colorful bird is the most poisonous bird on the planet. The Hooded Pitohui is a songbird of New Guinea with black and orange plumage. This species and its two close relatives, the Variable Pitohui and the Brown Pitohui, were the first documented poisonous birds. A neurotoxin called homobatrachotoxin found in the birds skin and feathers, causes numbness and tingling in those touching the bird.

The Hooded Pitohui acquires its poison from part of its diet, the Choresine beetle which is also a likely source of the lethal batrachotoxins found in Colombia’s poison dart frog.

Variable Pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus)

(Source: animalpicturesarchive.com/…/1210431875-t.jpg)

This small colorful bird, like the Hooded Pitohui is poisonous. The Variable Pitohui is a species of bird in the Colluricinclidae family. It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. The Variable Pitohui, as its name implies, exists in many different forms, and twenty subspecies with different plumage patterns have been named. Two of them, however, closely resemble the Hooded Pitohui.

Blue-capped Ifrita (Ifrita kowaldi)

(Source: nationalzoo.si.edu/…/images/jdifrita.jpg)

The Blue-capped Ifrita is another poisonous bird from New Guinea. It is also known as the Ifrit and is called Nanisani by local villagers. The Blue-capped Ifrita is placed as the only member of the genus Ifrita, which is it placed in the family Cinclosomatidae. The Blue-capped Ifrita, along with the Hooded Pitohui, sequesters batrachotoxin in its skin and feathers, which causes numbness and tingling to those who handle the bird. The toxin is acquired from part of its diet, the Choresine beetles.

Rufous or Little Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha)

(Source: Wikipedia)

This cute little bird looks like harmless but it is in fact a very poisonous bird. The Little Shrike-thrush is a species of bird in the Colluricinclidae family. It is found in Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and subtropical or tropical moist mountains. This bird is also known to carry batrachotoxins (BTXs) similar to those found in the secretions of Central and South American poison dart frogs.

Well, now that we have learned about these poisonous birds, be careful not to have contact with them nor eat them.

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23 Comments
  1. jean foronda
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 6:02 am

    good job friend go on

  2. Claris
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 6:16 am

    nice article nobert…….

  3. Unofre Pili
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 6:56 am

    Thanks for the info. I’ve never known there was such poisonous birds.

  4. eddiego65
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 7:00 am

    Nice article, bro! They look so harmless.

  5. Gerlaine
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I will try to remember this when I finally begin my world travels and as Eddie said, they do look so harmless. ~G

  6. B Nelson
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I had no idea Shrikes, or in fact, so many other birds were poisonous, that was great! Look out Cats!

  7. Mark Gordon Brown
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Just like dart frogs, they sure are pretty. Good article

  8. Juancav
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 10:02 am

    I am puzzled had no idea this,Finest article.

  9. Lauren Axelrod
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Interesting article, who knew?

  10. Judy Sheldon
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Nobert, thanks for the facts and beautiful bird pictures. We are learning a lot at Triond.

    Take care.

  11. tracy sardelli
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Amazing article, thank you for sharing.

  12. Alexa Gates
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    how can something so pretty be so dangerous?

  13. Ruby Hawk
    Posted August 24, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    Intresting article and great pictures. Keep up the good work.

  14. PR Mace
    Posted August 25, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    As always good work.

  15. Verniel Cutar
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Nice work, bro! Always refreshing to see your works. It takes me to different places. :-) Thanks!

  16. IcyCucky
    Posted August 28, 2008 at 7:20 am

    Wonderful article, and great images, Norbert!

  17. Isa
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    They’re so pretty. I didn’t realize that there were poisonous birds, thanks for this. It was informative. :)

  18. Andrew Cobill
    Posted December 16, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I never knew there were poisonous birds on Earth and I thought there were only one kind poisonous bird. This was very useful.

  19. Posted March 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

    Interesting article.

  20. Posted April 15, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    how long does a Hooded pitohui live?

  21. Shy
    Posted December 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    I heard that you can eat these, just not the feathers or skin. don’t take my word for it, and if they don’t eat that beetle they’re fine to eat(just to be safe- never eat the bird), so techniqually- just like Dart Frogs, they aren’t poisonous, the food they eat is actually poisonous.
    I would of never thought this was the poisonous bird of New Guinea. I heard about it three years ago in ninth grade, but never saw the pictures of these birds.

    Great information- I enjoyed this article.

  22. Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:05 am

    hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii my dear
    how are u

  23. Posted April 30, 2011 at 8:30 am

    great article thanks

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