Hooded Pitohui - Most Poisonous Bird In The World

There are many insects and poisonous reptiles in our ecosystem around the world such as centipedes, snakes, hornets, and many more. But not many will know about bird species out there that are very lethal and poisonous.

It may sound odd hearing this but the reality is that it exists. The bird species are known as the Hooded Pitohui or its scientific name Pitohui dichrous is a very melodious bird that is usually found in the New Guinea rainforest, an island located in the South Pacific of Eastern Indonesia.

There are certain birds that have their own defense mechanism against harmful predators but it is certain that the Hooded Pitohui is the most dangerous one out of them all. It is as beautiful as it is notoriously dangerous.  

There are 6 species of the Pitohui birds that have been determined living in New Guinea but the Hooded Pitohui is the most poisonous one of the species. Not just that but the Hooded Pitohui is also the first poisonous bird ever to be recorded. This bird has a red strike color on its stomach with black around its head.

This bird also has a strong peak and claws to get a grip on its prey. Its bright color resembles other dangerous creatures out there as it is a warning sign against those who dare to challenge them. Aside from not having a natural predator hunting it down, parasites and humans also stay far away from it.

So it is not surprising that the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) has labeled this bird to be a species that will not be endangered in the future.

First Time Ever Recorded

Jack Dumbacher
In 1989, a researcher from the California Academy of Sciences named Jack Dumbacher flew to Papua New Guinea to study the species of birds living there. In order to catch the birds, Jack has set up several thin nets between the trees.

One day he discovered that there are a few birds with great tunes in the traps. Without him knowing from the start, it was the Hooded Pitohui bird. When Jack decided to let go of the bird his fingers were scratched and he felt that the pain was quite intense than normal injuries.

Jack decided to put his fingers in his mouth to ease out the pain but things got worse as his tongue started to burn like acid. Jack went around to ask the locals there to understand his situation. The locals called the bird Hooded Pitohui or trash bird due to the stench smell and unpalatable taste of the bird when cooked.

They also advised Jack to stay away from the bird as only touching the feathers alone can cause itchiness and blisters on the skin.

Why The Hooded Pitohui is Very Poisonous

Jack took some of the bird's feathers back to the United States of America to do more tests on it. He gave the feathers to his chemist, John Daly from the National Institute of Health(NIH).

The surprising news came out and John found out that the feathers contain batrachotoxin which is a potent neurotoxin steroidal alkaloid that can cause paralysis, heart attack, and even death to the victim.
It was the same compound that is present on the skin of many poisonous frogs that are used by the indigenous South Americans on the tip of the arrow for hunting.

Batrachotoxin is one of the most toxic natural substances known in science. The main question is how this compound is present in Hooded Pitohui but not other birds around.

The Source of the Hooded Pitohui Poison

Jack Dumbacher decided to go further deep in this study to find out its unique mechanism. With the help of the locals in Papua New Guinea, Jack finally found his answers.
The Hooded Pitohui obtained this toxic poison from its diet mainly from a soft beetle from the melyrid family. Despite unveiling this mystery, several questions still remain like why did the bird choose this highly toxic beetle? 

It can be understood if the small frog from South America ate this bottle to obtain the poison for its beneficial self-defense mechanism. But for a bird that has strong beaks and claws as well as can easily flee away makes the whole thing questionable.


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