The Hooded Pitohui,
Pitohui dichrous is common and widespread throughout New Guinea.
This species, together with
its close relatives, the Variable Pitohui and the Brown Pitohui, are the first documented poisonous birds. A neurotoxin called
homobatrachotoxin found in the birds' skin and feathers, causes numbness and
tingling in those touching the bird.
The hooded pitohui was the first
poisonous bird to be identified. Of the three poisonous Pitohui
species, the hooded pitohui (Pitohui dichrous) is the most brightly
colored and by far the most poisonous. It is followed by the variable pitohui
(Pitohui kirhocephalus) and the rusty pitohui (Pitohui ferrugineus).
The Hooded Pitohui acquires its poison from part of its diet, the
Choresine beetle of the Melyridae family. This beetle is also a likely
source of the lethal batrachotoxins found in Colombia's poison dart frogs.
The Hooded Pitohui is brightly colored,
with a brick red or orange belly and a jet black head.
It has been
suggested that the birds' bright colors are an example of aposematism (warning
coloration), and the similarity of the Hooded Pitohui and some forms of the
Variable Pitohui might then be an example of Müllerian mimicry, in which
dangerous species gain a mutual advantage by sharing colouration, so that an
encounter with either species trains a predator to avoid both. (Dumbacher and
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