Physical characteristics: A medium-sized bird, the variable pitohui is 9 to 10 inches (23 to 25.5 cm) long and weighs 3 to 3.5 ounces (85 to 100 grams). It has a black head and wings, a reddish back, an orange breast and belly, and black legs. This general coloring, however, varies among its twenty subspecies.
Geographic range: This species can be found in New Guinea and neighboring islands.
Habitat: The variable pitohui nests in thick undergrowth at the edge of forests up to 4,950 feet (1,500 meters). It can even live in forests that have been greatly disturbed.
Although it generally hides in dense vegetation with its mate, the variable pitohui will forage with other birds, including birds of other species. (Illustration by Emily Damstra. Reproduced by permission.)
Diet: This species eats insects and berries.
Behavior and reproduction: Though it generally hides in dense vegetation with its mate, the variable pitohui will forage with other birds, including many that aren't its own species. Its song is musical and pleasant. Mated pairs will often sing duets together. Little is known about the mating behavior of this species.
The variable pitohui and people: This bird has been rarely hunted for food because of its unpleasant taste. In some cases, it is extremely poisonous.
Conservation status: The variable pitohui is not in danger of dying out. However, it is common in some areas, and rare in others. ■
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Higgins, P. J., and J. M. Peter, eds. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 6, Pardalotes to Shrike-thrushes. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Perrins, Christopher. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Richmond Hill, Canada: Firefly Books, 2003.
Robbins, Michael. Birds (Fandex Family Field Guides). New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1998.
Schodde, R. Directory of Australian Birds: Passerines. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO, 1999.
Simpson, K., and N. Day. A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Ringwood, Australia: Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1996.
Weidensaul, Scott. Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides). New York: Scholastic Trade, 1998.
PSEUDO BABBLERS Pomatostomidae
Class: Aves Order: Passeriformes Family: Pomatostomidae Number of species: 5 species
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