are there any poisonous birds

Birds were the last major group of vertebrates in which poison or venom was identified by scientists, though local people had long known that some birds taste foul and cause numbness if handled.

In 1989, researchers found that the hooded pitohui (pronounced ‘pit-o-weez’) of Papua New Guinea had toxic feathers and skin. Later studies showed that, like poison-dart frogs, the toxicity derives from its diet, in this case beetles.

Four other New Guinean birds are now known to be poisonous – three pitohui species and the blue-capped ifrita – and ornithologists think there may be more poisonous birds out there.

Initial research edit

1992 saw the publication of the first study on toxic birds by Dumbacher et al. ,[4] which discovered that the body tissue and feathers of numerous species of New Guinea passerine birds belonging to the genus Pitohui and Ifrita contained residues of the neurotoxin homobatrachotoxin, a steroid alkaloid that has the capacity to polarize Na channels. [5] Up until 1992, only three species of poison dart frogs in Western Colombia (Phyllobates terribilis, Phyllobates bicolor, and Phyllobates aurotaenia) had been found to harbor the toxins of New Guinea’s passerine birds. The level of toxicity varies in both pitohuis across their range, and phyllobates kept in captivity do not develop the toxins. These two facts imply that diet is the source of the toxins. The most frequent source of toxicity in these toxic birds is their diet, which mainly consists of beetles and other toxic insects. The beetles of the genus Choresine, which are locally known as nanisani, are essential food and toxin sources for the Pitohui and Ifrita bird species found in New Guinea. [6].

Although locals had long known that certain birds taste bad and can cause numbness when handled, birds were the last major group of vertebrates in which poison or venom was identified by scientists.

Researchers discovered in 1989 that the skin and feathers of the Papuan New Guinean hooded pitohui, or “pit-o-weez,” were poisonous. Subsequent research revealed that the toxicity comes from its food—in this case, beetles—just like in the case of poison-dart frogs.

Ornithologists believe there may be more poisonous birds in the world in addition to the four New Guinean birds that are currently known to be so—three pitohui species and the blue-capped ifrita.

Use of toxins edit

The only toxic weaponry that has evolved in birds is poison, and it seems to have come from specific, independent groups of avian lineages (e g. , Pitohui and Ifrita). These clusters are found close to the phylogenetic tips, which, along with the higher rate of loss than gain, indicates that many lineages have probably lost the capacity to sequester poisons after losing it through evolution. It is hypothesised that this chemical defense works well against raptors, snakes, and certain arboreal marsupials. Skin and feather toxicity is also thought to be a defense mechanism against ectoparasites. It has been discovered that batrachotoxins are toxic to insects in orders that are not closely related, indicating that they may be useful against a variety of ectoparasite arthropods.

It has been discovered that these ectoparasites aid in the reproduction of birds belonging to the genus Pitohui and Ifrita, by increasing the amount of time and energy expended during the reproductive process. Because toxic birds’ batrachotoxin prevents parasites from finding refuge on their body tissue and feathers, these birds have an advantage over ectoparasites. This suggests that ectoparasites are a significant evolutionary force in sexual selection. [8].


Why are there no venomous birds?

Venom production and use is a costly activity. Birds are already using the most energetically inefficient way of transport for a vertebrate by flying. Mammals have a larger and more inefficient brain than other animals to maintain.

What birds Cannot be eaten?

The pitohui, the ifrita, and the rufous or little shrikethrush all sequester batrachotoxin in their skin and feathers. The African spur-winged goose is toxic to eat as it sequesters poison in its tissues, from the blister beetles that it feeds on.

What is the one poisonous bird in the world?

The hooded pitohui is not the only poisonous bird, but it is the most poisonous bird. It is in the genus Pitohui with a few other species, all native to New Guinea. Two species in this genus are the hooded pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) and the variable pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus), both of which are poisonous.

Are geese poisonous?

While all spur-winged geese are rather intimidating, only one population of the geese is actually poisonous. In the Gambia, the geese tend to eat the poisonous blister beetle. However, while they are immune to the toxin, their flesh is imbued with it.