Wednesday, 7 August 2013


At Margo's request today's unusual animal is an unusual bird, and a toxic one at that.

Pitohuis are brightly coloured birds. The skin and feathers of some pitohuis, especially the  Hooded Pitohuis seen above, contain powerful toxins (also secreted by the Colombian poison dart frogs). These are believed to serve the birds as a chemical defence, either against parasites or against visually guided predators such as snakesbirds of prey or humans. 

The birds probably do not produce batrachotoxin themselves. The toxins most likely come from  beetles that are part of the birds' diets. Due to their toxicity, Papua New Guineans call the pitohuis rubbish birds as they are not good for eating; in desperate times, though, they can be consumed but only after the feathers and skin are removed and the flesh is coated in charcoal and then roasted. 

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