WASHINGTON(AP) - Scientists have discovered that an orange-and-black jungle songbird
named the New Guinea Pitohui contains one of nature's most powerful toxins and is
the world's only known poisonous fowl.
John Dumbacher, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, said he accidentally
discovered that the Pitohui (pronounced pit-a-hooey) was poisonous when several of
the songbirds became snared in nets rigged in the jungle to catch another type of
"We were trying to catch the Bird of Paradise, but we caught a lot of these
birds as well," Dumbacher said. "We were trying to release them as quickly
as possible, but they were able to cut our hands with their sharp beaks and claws."
The researcher said he licked his wounds and noticed that his mouth immediately began
to tingle and then go numb.
Later, he and other researchers caught more Pitohui and put feathers from the birds
on their tongues. There was an immediate reaction. As they reported in a study published
last October in the journal Science: "The toxin caused numbness, burning and
sneezing on contact."