Most poisonous birds have high concentrations of batrachotoxin in their belly, breast, and leg feathers. The toxin can numb or paralyze on contact. Needless to say, the poison protects them from predators. Here are some bird species that are considered to be toxic and poisonous.
The blue-capped ifrit, sometimes called the blue-capped ifrita, is a small bird that is generally dark brown and light brown in color, but it has a blue and black crown at the top of the head, hence the reason why it has “blue-capped” in its name. This bird is endemic to Papua New Guinea and New Guinea, and they cannot be found in other parts of the world. This bird excretes a chemical called batrachotoxin into their skin and feathers to acts as a defense against predators or parasites. Once an animal touches the bird’s poisonous feathers, its body will become numb, and it will eventually become paralyzed. Interestingly, blue-capped ifrits cannot produce the toxin on their own, as they rely on getting it in the bodies of Choresine beetles that they usually eat.
The rufous shrikethrush belongs to the genus Colluricinla and has three subspecies that are recognized from 1845 to 1930. The bird is found in parts of Australia and New Guinea, and is often living in moist lowland forests. Like the blue-capped ifrit, the rufous shrikethrush excretes batrachotoxin to its skin and feathers as a defense mechanism against larger animals that may eat them. It is believed that the toxin that they have in their bodies also comes from their diet.
Known as one of the most poisonous birds in the genus pitohui, the hooded pitohui is often avoided by local hunters because of its potent poison. The hooded pitohui carries in it’s a body a neurotoxin called homobatrachotoxin, which is a derivative of batrachotoxin and was once only found in poison dart frogs. According to studies, the hooded pitohui gets their toxin from Choresine beetles, much like the blue-capped ifrit. It is believed that the poisonous birds have become immune to the toxins after eating the poison-producing beetles for decades or even centuries.
The spur-winged goose is a large bird found in the southern parts of Africa and is related to the common goose as well as the shelduck. However, they have unique features that separate them from the two mentioned animals, which is why it belongs to its own subfamily called Plectropterinae. This species of goose lives in open grasslands in Africa that have lakes, rivers, and swamps. Unlike most of the birds on this list, they don’t excrete the cantharidin found in their bodies; however, if one chooses to eat them, he or she will be affected by the poison. As such, many locals advised others not to eat these birds, as they generally consume blister beetles that contain the toxin found in the spur-winged geese. Even if it is cooked, the spur-winged goose’s meat will still have cantharidin in it.
The common quail is another small bird that belongs to the family Phasianidae. It is mostly known for its call, which is described as a human “wetting his or her lips.” However, what it isn’t really known for but should be is its highly poisonous body, and the level of toxins on each bird depends on its diet. These common quails are said to be fond of eating poisonous plants, and the toxins found on those plants will stay on their bodies for weeks. People who have eaten a common quail’s meat were reported to have experienced muscle soreness and numbness, which is called coturnism. Consuming too much common quail meat could result in kidney failure.
Those are five poisonous birds that you may find in the wild, especially if you live or travel around Papua New Guinea, Africa, or Asia. It is critical for you to know the appearance of these birds so that you can stay away from them before they can even get close to you. However, despite being listed as “least concern” in their conservation statuses, they must not be harmed and should be allowed to live their lives peacefully in their natural habitat without being disturbed by humans. More information about these birds can be found in the book “The Complete Illustrated Birds of the World” by David Alderton.