The hidden world of poisonous birds

(©Wikipedia: Hooded Pithou;

You might have heard of a poisonous Amphibian or a venomous reptile (if you are an animal lover) the poisonous spurs of a duck-billed platypus, but have you ever heard of a toxic bird? Well, prepare to be mindblown! These amazing birds are birds that use poison to deter predators away from them. No birds are yet known to inject or produce venom, but there are five species of poisonous birds.

1. Blue-capped ifrit (Ifrita kowaldi)

scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Ifritidae

Genus: Ifrita

Species: I.Kowaldi

(©Wikipedia: Blue-capped ifrit; ifrit)

This bird is native to Papua New Guinea. It’s an endemic species (endemic, meaning that it’s only native to a particular place and couldn’t be found anywhere else), it’s about 17cm long and weighs 34-36 grams. To untrained eyes, they look very similar to Eurasian jays but the difference is like the sun and the moon. They have small rounded wings while their legs are booted and overall a stout body. They have batrachotoxin in their feathers and skin. They build nests 1-3 metres above ground because of their weak ability of flight, but they disguise their nest with moss and liverworts. Together with their hidden nests, small clutches and toxins they deter any predators that come their way.

conservation status: Least concern

2. Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix)

scientific classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Galliformes

Family: Phasianidae

Genus: Coturnix

Species: C. Coturnix


(©Wikipedia: Common quail;

This is one bird that I was amazed by that it was poisonous. The common quail is part of the cuisine in many cultures! How and what makes them poisonous? Well, there is an illness called coturnism which is caused by toxins in its fat and flesh. The difference between the Common quail and the Blue-caped Ifrit is that this bird gets its toxicity from plants, while the blue-capped ifrit gets it from barachtoxins. Poison dart frog also has this kind of toxins in its skin. If you want more information on the toxins you can find this in the link below. The Common quail is a terrestrial fowl and it feeds on insects and seeds. It’s extremely difficult to spot even when excited, you might hear the occasional ‘wet-my lips’ call of the male quail. The Common quail is a strongly migratory bird, this is an unusual habit for a game bird. As the saying goes ” you never judge a book by its cover”.

conservation status: Least concern

The next three birds will be continued in the next post, hope you enjoyed!


More info on Common Quail poison

How does the common quail sound like?

Blue-Capped ifrit

Do you want to know what is a Batrachotoxin?



Abdurrahman is a wildlife fanatic who absolutely loves nature and the outdoors, he is  regularly birdwatching and photographing wildlife. If you can’t find him birding or crouching behind a patch of reeds taking photos of waders, you will probably find him trail-running or cycling in the closest national park.

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