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Black Pitohui - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: Dusky Pitohui; Dusky Wood-shrike

Melanorectes nigrescens



  • Male with entirely slaty black body (crown and side of head slightly darker)
  • Dark brown or grey-brown eyes
  • Black bill and legs
  • Females with ashy grey crown, olive-brown upperparts and tawny-brown underparts

The different subspecies differ mainly in the plumage colour of the females.


Endemic to New Guinea.
Uncommon in its range.



There are 6 subspecies:

  • M. n. nigrescens:
  • North-western New Guinea (Arfak and Tamrau mountains)
  • M. n. wandamensis:
  • M. n. buergersi:
  • New Guinea (Sepik, Hindenburg and Hagen mountains)
  • M. n. meeki:
  • Central New Guinea (Weyland, Nassau and Snow mountains)
  • M. n. harterti:
  • North-eastern New Guinea (Saruwaged Mountains of Huon Peninsula)
  • M. n. schistaceus :
  • Herzog Mountains and mountains of south-eastern New Guinea

It was formerly placed in the genus Pitohui.


Lower montane forest, mainly at 1600 - 2000m, locally higher or lower.


Feeds on insects and fruit, sometimes on seed.
Breeding records in September, November and December. The nest is a cup made of fern fronds and fine rootlets, placed high up in a tree. Lays 1 - 2 eggs.
Resident species.
The skin and feathers contain powerful neurotoxic alkaloids of the batrachotoxin group (also secreted by the Colombian poison dart frogs, genus Phyllobates). It is believed that these serve the birds as a chemical defence, either against ectoparasites or against visually guided predators such as snakes, raptors or humans. (Dumbacher, et al., 1992) The birds probably do not produce batrachotoxin themselves. It is most likely that the toxins come from the Choresine genus of beetles, part of the bird's diet. (Dumbacher, et al., 2004)


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2012. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to October 2012. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
  2. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliott, and D Christie, eds. 2007. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8496553422

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.