In recent years, scientists have found that some birds
might have warning colors—and that the birds are not only
distasteful but also poisonous. the birds they studied live
in rainforests in New Guinea.
One of these birds is the hooded pitohui, an orange
bird with a black face and tail and black wings. in 1990, a
researcher who licked his finger after being scratched by a
pitohui reported that his tongue and lips tingled, burned,
and then went numb for a few hours.
After more research, scientists found that the pitohui’s
feathers and skin contained poison. smaller amounts of
poison were also found in some of the birds’ muscles and
organs. Furthermore, it was the same kind of poison found
in poison dart frogs.
Peopleliving in New Guinea’s forests already knew to
avoid the pitohui. they called it the “garbage bird” and told
scientists that just being near it made them sneeze and
made their noses, mouths, and eyes burn. people who ate
the birds felt sick to their stomachs.
Scientists now want to find out how the birds became
poisonous. they have found the same poison in a red-andblack
beetle that pitohuis eat, so the birds might have become
poisonous by eating poison themselves.
Since 1990, other species of poisonous pitohuis have
been studied. scientists have also found that another new
guinean bird, the blue-capped ifrita, contains the same
poison. Again, the native people already knew this. their
word for this species means “bitter bird.”