Poisonous Bird

In 1989, biologist Jack Dumbacher recorded the first instance of natural toxicity, or poison, in a bird. The bright orange-and-black hooded pitohui and four others in this genus (JEE-nus), group of related birds, have a neurotoxin, or poison that affects the nerves, in their skin, feathers, and flesh. This neurotoxin produces numbness when touched and is the same poison found in the poison dart frogs of Central and South America. Scientists have not been able to figure out how the birds, or the frogs, make the poison, or how these animals are able to survive with the poison in their systems.

nest can be as high as 33 feet (10 meters) from the ground. In more arid regions where tree growth is limited, the nests will be placed in shrubs and low vegetation within 3 feet (100 centimeters) of the forest floor. The sandstone shrike-thrush, which lives in a region with few trees, will build its nest on a cliff edge or in a rock crevice. Oddly, the crested bellbird places paralyzed caterpillars along the rim of the nest when the eggs are incubated.

Generally, whistlers have only one brood, or set of eggs hatched at the same time, each season, although some species will try to raise two or three. Females lay two to four speckled or blotched eggs that are incubated fourteen to twenty-one days and fed in the nest for fourteen to twenty-one days.

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