Hooded Pitohui | The Most Poisonous Bird in the World—10 Fascinating Facts

The Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) is a beautiful and colorful exotic rainforest bird. It is believed to be the most poisonous avian on Earth with the toxin stored in its feathers and skin. It is native to the island of New Guinea and the nearby island of Yapen, which lie in the South Pacific Ocean to the east of Indonesia and north of Australia. By the way, the bird’s name is pronounced as ‘hood-ed pi-too-eey’.

The bird belongs to the only known genus of poisonous birds, the “Pitohui”. There are about six species of Pitohui, of which the Hooded Pitohui is the most venomous. They are members of the family Corvidae (same as crows and ravens), and they are passerines or songbirds. The songbird has two relatives, the Variable Pitohui and the Brown Pitohui, which are also deadly. Of the three cousins, the hooded pitohui is the most toxic.

Hooded Pitohui, Pitohui, poisonous birds
Hooded Pitohui in New Guinea

How Was it Discovered?

The hooded pitohui is one of the world’s first documented poisonous birds. It was discovered by a researcher, American ornithologist, John “Jack” Dumbacher, with the Smithsonian Institution by accident when he was scratched and bitten (lacerated and punctured) by hooded pitohuis when they were being extracted from the mist net he had set to catch birds of paradise in 1989 in the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. Dumbacher’s finger started to sting and began to go numb. He decided to suck on the cut to clean it and put his finger in his mouth to lick away the blood. After a minute, his lips and tongue started to go tingle, burn, and go numb.

Later, Dumbacher took a feather from the songbird and put it directly on his tongue. He found that the burning and tingling effects lasted for hours. When he returned to the United States, Dumbacher took some feathers of the bird to chemist John Daly at the National Institute of Health. Daly found out that the feathers contained batrachotoxin, an extremely powerful steroidal alkaloid poison. It was largely neurotoxic, and even relatively small doses can lead to paralysis of all muscles, cardiac arrest, and then death.

Why is the Bird Toxic?

The hooded pitohui acquires the toxins from eating Choresine, a Melyridae beetle. The potent neurotoxin is called homobatrachotoxin. Homobatrachotoxin is a member of a class of compounds collectively called batrachotoxins and is the most poisonous of all naturally occurring substances. The toxin homobatrachotoxin (hBTX) is concentrated mainly in the bird’s skin and feathers, while present throughout its body. hBTX is one of the most potent poisons that prevents nerve cells from producing signals, which in turn leads to paralysis.

hBTX causes numbness and tingling with minimal exposure and paralysis or probably death in case of extreme exposure. The toxins are believed to act as a chemical defense, both against ectoparasites, such as lice, and visual predators such as snakes, raptors, or humans. While other bird species have chemical self-defense systems to keep predators from consuming them, this is the only bird that is toxic to humans to date. There is no known antidote developed for this poison.

The songbird’s toxins are similar to those found in poison dart frogs (most famously, Phyllobates terribilis – the Golden Poison Frog) found in Colombia, South America. Both these animals absorb the poisons from their diets. Many scientists believe that beetles (hooded pitohui) and ants (poison dart frogs) are the main sources of the poison.

Habitat of the Song Bird

The songbird is found in forests at a height of 2,000 meters or 6,699 feet. However, it is most common in low mountains and hills at 350 to 1,700 meters.

It is a medium-sized bird with a brick-red or orange belly with a jet black head, and black wings and tail. It has a powerful black beak and strong legs. The bird’s bright colors are an example of ‘aposematism’ or warning colors.

Hooded Pitohui Fact File

The hooded pitohui is 8.7–9.1 in (22 to 23 cm) long and weighs 2.3–2.7 oz (65–76 g). It is an omnivorous bird feeding on fruits, seeds, insects, and other invertebrates. Its black and bright orange feathers allow predators to spot them easily, and identify them as poisonous. Their strong and sour odor also serves to ward off enemies. Some other New Guinean birds have developed similar markings to fool predators into thinking they are pitohuis.

The songbird is a social bird living in family groups. It frequently joins and are even leaders of mixed-species foraging flocks. While the males are called cocks, the females are called hens. A baby is called a chick. The birds produce fertilized eggs and are dioecious. They are extremely protective about their nest, and chicks are fed insects and berries.

Do you know that New Guinea native tribes call the hooded pitohui “Wobob,” which means the bird whose bitter skin puckers the mouth? The term also refers to an itchy and uncomfortable skin disease that one contracts on contact with the songbird. The birds are also known as “rubbish or garbage birds” because of the foul odor that results from touching them, and also when cooking them. Rarely do people eat them, and only during times of food scarcity.

Sounds of Hooded Pitohui

The songbird makes a variety of calls, comprising an array of wolf-whistles, clicks, and oriole-like warbles. The collection of whistles can slur up or down with hesitant pauses. The bird’s voice is usually lower, and it uses an ensemble of songs to communicate.

Let us now listen to the amazing calls and songs of the hooded pitohui.

Conservation Status of Hooded Pitohui

The hooded pitohui is common in its native places and is currently not at risk of extinction, with the population trend being stable.

God Created All Creatures Out of Love

God loves His creation, Hooded Pitohui, Pitohui, poisonous birds

The Almighty One created everything out of love with a plan for interconnection and interdependence built into it. Though the hooded pitohui is a poisonous bird, its toxicity helps its survival in its harsh environment. God has created everything for a purpose, and the bird plays an essential role in the functioning of its native ecosystem.

Browse our Factopedia section for unusual, random, and mind-blowing facts about some of our planet’s iconic natural wonders and animals, and praise our Heavenly Father for His intelligent design.


  1. tisha 29th November 2021
  2. lashonda 30th November 2021
  3. kayle 30th November 2021
  4. rosalyn 6th December 2021
  5. bertie 7th December 2021
  6. Koga 30th April 2022

Add Comment

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons
Bible Reading Plans Bible Summaries Bible Verses by Topic Hymns Jesus on Earth Lent Season Praise Offerings Prayers Thought Pickers
christian prayers, daily prayers christian, christian prayer in english, short christian prayers, afternoon christian prayers
3 Mesmerizing Christian Prayers to Connect with the God of our Fathers
holy week days, holy week sermon, holy week message
1 Inspiring Holy Week Sermon on the Road from Palms to Passion
lent history, origin of lent, the history of lent, history behind lent, history of lent
The Intriguing History of Lent – 15 Unique Lent Traditions Around the World
5 Minute Sermons Bible Facts Bible Heroes Bible in Pictures Classic Sermons Heroes of the Faith Historical Events Moral Stories Parables
holy week days, holy week sermon, holy week message
1 Inspiring Holy Week Sermon on the Road from Palms to Passion
sacrificial love in the bible, sacrificial love, define sacrificial love, love is sacrificial
Unveiling the Power of Sacrificial Love:7 Pathways to an Extraordinary Life
timeline of the holy bible, scripture timeline, bible timeline
A Lucid Bible Timeline — Remarkable 6,000 Years of Human History
Ask Bibilium Christian Living Christian Poems Christmas Season Contemporary Songs eBooks Festivals New Year Personal Development Quizzes Quotes Soft Skills Courses Women in Christ
Palm Sunday Poems, Palm Day, Christian Poems, Christ Poem, Sunday Poems
3 Inspirational Palm Sunday Poems to Strengthen Your Faith
happy new year short message, best new year message, happy new year motivational message, happy new year thoughts, new year preach
1 Best New Year Message: Starting the Upcoming Year With God
motivational new year message, happy new year inspirational message, new year's day message, new year preaching sermon, sermon on a new year
1 Motivational New Year Message – No Fear When God is Near
Animated Bible Stories Factopedia Sunday School
christmas quiz, christmas quiz questions, christmas quiz questions and answers
The Spectacular Christmas Quiz | 12 Answers You Need to Know
in the arms of jesus, arms of jesus, jesus ark, safe in the arms of jesus
Safe in the Arms of Jesus | 1 Story of Redemption | Noah’s Ark
pitohui, hooded pitohui, poisonous birds
Hooded Pitohui | The Most Poisonous Bird in the World—10 Fascinating Facts
Don`t copy text!