Hooded Pitohui Fact File

Pitohui dichrous

Credit: markaharper1, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons












Fruits, Insects

Conservation Status


Least Concern

A Poisonous Bird!

The hooded pitohui is one of the few known poisonous species of bird. Their poison is derived from the small beetles on which they feed and the poison contained within them.

These birds are omnivores and along with the insects they also consume fruits. Depending on how much of their diet is made up of beetles they may be more or less poisonous.

Females use their wings to rub poison over their eggs and snakes which swallow them have been seen to spit them back up later.

This species is considered common across its range.

Read on to learn more about these brilliant birds.


What does the Hooded Pitohui look like?

Across their body the hooded pitohui has orange feathers. These contrast heavily with the wing, head and tail feathers which are black.

Their legs are colored black and end with sharp claws. They have a sharp beak.

On the head is a short crest of feathers which can be raised.

An average hooded pitohui will measure 23cm (9in) long and weighs 67-76g (2.4-2.7oz). Males and females have a similar appearance.


How does the Hooded Pitohui survive in its habitat?

The bright orange body of the hooded pitohui is an example of aposematism. This is where an animal uses color to warn potential predators that they present a threat to their survival.

Within their feathers are the same toxins which are present in the poison dart frogs of South America. Each bird has a variable amount of toxin as it comes from the beetles they eat. The less beetles they feed on the less toxic they are.

Scientists are still investigating why the pitohui became toxic as there is little need for them to defend themselves in this manner.

These animals also possess an offensive smell which helps to prevent other animals approaching them.

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What does the Hooded Pitohui eat?

Hooded pitohuis are omnivores. They will feed primarily on fruits and seeds. They also eat small beetles which produce the poisons which make this bird toxic.

Learn more about the Hooded Pitohui in this video from Wild India on YouTube


Where do you find the Hooded Pitohui?

The island of New Guinea is the native home of the hooded pitohui. Here they live both in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.


Where can the Hooded Pitohui survive?

The hooded pitohui is found in tropical rainforest and jungle habitats.

Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous)

Credit: Benjamin Freeman, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


How does the Hooded Pitohui produce its young?

These birds form their nest in to a cup shape from vines. This is sited in a triangle of branches.

Females are able to leave their eggs in the nest while she goes out to feed as she covers them with poison from her feathers. Snakes have been seen to spit back up the eggs if they swallow them due to the unpleasant taste.

Young are not initially toxic and rely on their bright colors for defence.


What does the Hooded Pitohui do during its day?

These birds have been found flying in mixed flocks with birds of paradise. It is thought that is a cooperative defence in which the birds of paradise are protected by the hooded pitohuis.

Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous)

Credit: Benjamin Freeman, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Hooded Pitohui from surviving and thriving?

While a full population estimate has not been prepared for this species they are reported as common by most people in their range.

These birds are considered toxic as a result of a poison which they obtain from their food. If touched the animal may develop numbness or tingling. If the dose is high enough it can cause paralysis or death.

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Quick facts

This species was first described for science during 1850.

Locally this species may be referred to as the 'rubbish bird' due to their poor taste.

Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous)

Credit: Benjamin Freeman, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Cossins, J., 2021. Book of Curious Birds. Lothian Children's Books.

BirdLife International. 2018. Pitohui dichrousThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22705576A130390714. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22705576A130390714.en. Accessed on 05 April 2022.

California Academy of Sciences. 2022. Avian Chemical Defense. [online] Available at: <https://www.calacademy.org/scientists/projects/avian-chemical-defense> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

Crew, B., 2022. Hooded pitohui, one of the world's only toxic birds. [online] Australian Geographic. Available at: <https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/creatura-blog/2014/06/hooded-pitohui-bird/> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

Animal Facts For Kids | Wild Facts. 2022. Facts about the Hooded Pitohui. [online] Available at: <http://www.wild-facts.com/2010/wild-fact-821-flying-venom-hooded-pitohui/> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

Aquariumofpacific.org. 2022. Hooded Pituhoi. [online] Available at: <https://www.aquariumofpacific.org/onlinelearningcenter/species/hooded_pituhoi> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

John, K., 2022. Surprisingly Poisonous | Outside My Window. [online] Birdsoutsidemywindow.org. Available at: <https://www.birdsoutsidemywindow.org/2017/06/21/surprisingly-poisonous/> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

Oiseaux.net. 2022. Pitohui bicolore - Pitohui dichrous - Hooded Pitohui. [online] Available at: <https://www.oiseaux.net/birds/hooded.pitohui.html> [Accessed 5 April 2022].

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