RFI: Black&Orange Hooded Pitohui

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Subject: RFI: Black&Orange Hooded Pitohui
From: "Judie Peet" <>
Date: Sat, 10 Mar 2001 18:30:13 +1100
Hi Frank and all,

I went looking for the Black & Orange Hooded Pitohui on the web and came
upon the following fascinating info (there's more!) in an online birding
newsletter, at

Regards, Judie Peet (Dubbo)
(The only thing certain about birdwatching is that nothing's certain.)

Red Hot Chili - Feathers? According to a recent Manchester Guardian report,
a New Guinea bird species has evolved a natural protection against becoming
prey. A team of Smithsonian Institution scientists is investigating local
lore that these birds have a taste hotter than chili peppers, and that even
breathing feather-fragments can cause symptoms of nausea, watering eyes and
burning skin. Per their reports, the skin and feathers of five species of
pitohui songbirds, including the black-and-orange hooded pitohui and the
blue-capped ifrita, contain poisons known as batrachotoxins. These
batrachotoxins have only previously been known in frogs such as those used
Columbia natives in making blow-dart poison.

The bright colored songbirds use their brilliant plumage and displays to
attract females, but in the process are obvious to predators such as hawks.
However, raptors quickly associate the birds' bright colors with a nasty
chili-hot experience, as the toxins are concentrated in feathers and flesh,
to varying degrees. Other predators, i.e. snakes, hunt by smell, and the
repugnant smell and taste of chilli-hot pitohui and ifrita birds is
apparently a powerful deterrent. The batrachotoxins also help deal with nest

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