Wild Fact #821 – Flying Venom – Hooded Pitohui
So it is the last Wild Fact of the week dedicated to the venomous creatures of the earth. I had mentioned that you wouldn’t be able to guess today’s poisonous animal. I will be very surprised if anyone thought it would be one of our flying, feathered friends. That’s right! The Hooded Pitohui actually contains venom. So do we have to be worried about death from above? We will get to that in a second. Where is the fun in telling you all the facts right up front? We need a little bit of suspense to keep you interested.
The Hooded Pitohui can be found in Papua New Guinea and was the first documented poisonous bird. Researchers were studying these little song birds back in 1989 and noticed that after being scratched by the pitohui they would feel numbness and irritation. Eventually, they clued in that perhaps this bird was actually poisonous. The funny part about this is the fact that the locals in the area had known that for years and would rub the meat in charcoal before consuming it.
So just how poisonous is the hooded pitohui? Well the birds feathers and skin contain the exact same poison that is found in the slightly more famous “Poison Dart Frogs”. This chemical is actually the most powerful natural toxin known to man. In fact, researchers injected some of this neurotoxin into a mouse and it died instantly. For the most part these birds will cause numbness and tingling, sneezing and other minor symptoms when touched. Serious side effects such as paralysis and death would occur if you came in contact with a higher quantity of this poison.
Interestingly enough, not all of the birds contain the same amount of toxin. In some instances the researchers would sneeze and exhibit the symptoms just by being close to some of the birds while at other times nothing would happen. This indicates that the birds are obtaining their poison from an external source. In this case the pitohui acquires their toxin from their food source, the Choresine Beetle. It seems that insects are always causing problems in this world, eh? This natural toxin offers incredible protection against predators since nobody in their right mind would want to eat something that could possibly kill you.
I hope you all enjoyed the week of Poisonous Wild Facts! Have a great weekend!
**EDIT - As a request from one of my faithful readers, I have included a sound clip of the Hooded Pitohui below.**