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Pitohuis and Ifritas



Pitohuis and Ifritas
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.51

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    blue-capped, garb, ifrita, ifritas, nanisani, pitohui, pitohuis, toxin, somewhat, eye-catching, staples, rubbish, species, charcoal, toxic, flashy
     content words:    Papua New Guinea, Jack Dumbacher, New Guinea, South America


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Pitohuis and Ifritas
By Vickie Chao
  

1     There are many toxic things in the wild that we should stay away from. For example, there are toxic mushrooms. There are toxic frogs. There are toxic fish. There are toxic spiders. And there are toxic snakes.
 
2     What about birds?
 
3     Well, rare as the case may be, there are actually two kinds of toxic birds in the world. The first is called pitohui (pronounced PIT-oh-wheez). And the second is called ifrita. Both happen to live in Papua New Guinea, an island just a bit north of Australia.
 
4     In the genus of pitohui, there are several different species. Of them, the most famous is the hooded pitohui. Hooded pitohuis are hard to miss because of their brightly colored outfits (in orange and black). For a long time, scientists had no idea that hooded pitohuis were toxic. They only found that out recently by chance.
 
5     In the summer of 1989, a graduate student named Jack Dumbacher was doing field research in Papua New Guinea. One day, he tried to free a hooded pitohui caught in his net. The bird scratched his hand with its sharp beak and claws. Reactively, Jack put his hand in his mouth to try to soothe the pain. As he did so, he felt a strange numbing sensation. He thought that this might be the effect of some toxin. Later on, he found out that hooded pitohuis' feathers and skin are indeed toxic. He also found out that the bird is not the only toxic one in the world. Other members of its genus and the blue-capped ifrita are toxic, too.

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