Venomous Birds

David Perlman in the San Francisco Chronicle:

BirdThere stood Jack Dumbacher, innocently trying to trap a gorgeous bird of paradise in the mist net he’d set up for his research in a New Guinea forest, when the net entangled a flying stranger, all vivid orange and black.

The unwanted bird clawed Dumbacher’s fingers, nipped them with its beak, and when the startled scientist put a bleeding finger to his mouth, he suddenly felt a burning, tingling sensation on his tongue and lips — which soon became briefly numb.

The bird was a hooded pitohui (pronounced PIT-a-hooey), and the encounter in Papua New Guinea 15 years ago led the ornithologist to abandon his research into birds of paradise and to follow a mysterious, deadly poison that links the birds in the highland Papuan villages to frogs in the lowland South American jungles of Colombia — and to beetles in both far-off habitats.

More here.