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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Toxic Bird Discovered

Toxic Bird Discovered

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

bird.

"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."

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