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Wikimedia Commons

4 Poisonous Birds

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Toxins: they're not just for snakes and spiders! While no bird currently known to science wields a venomous bite, a fair number do in fact release noxious poisons from their skin, making them dangerous to consume... including one species upon which humans have been precariously dining for centuries. Here's a quartet of toxic avians.

1. Hooded Pitohui (Pitohui dichrous)

Though New Guinea natives have long known that these stunning orange and black songbirds (above) are indeed quite poisonous, the scientific community didn't catch on until relatively recently as explained in this video:

2. The Little Shrikethrush (Colluricincla megarhyncha)

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Back in 2000, a team of researchers collected a pair of these insect-eating Oceania natives and discovered that the feathers of one specimen actually contained secretions of a toxin similar to that used by the notorious poison dart frogs of Central and South America.

3. The Spur-Winged Goose (Plectopterus gambiensis)

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In nature, you are what you eat. Case in point: Just as flamingos acquire their pinkish hue from the crustaceans they gobble up, the Spur-Winged Goose absorbs poisons from toxic beetles it periodically ingests, making its own flesh deadly to consume.

4. The Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix)

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The toxins of these odd-looking yet familiar birds have been affecting human chefs and diners for so long that a new word—“coturnism”—was eventually coined to describe the phenomenon of being poisoned by a quail, resulting in vertigo and spasms; the predicament was even described in the Biblical book of Numbers. In fact, these symptoms became so widespread throughout the Mediterranean that the Roman Empire officially banned the eating of quail in the 1st Century CE.

So what makes these seemingly harmless fowl so dangerous to nibble on? Though many scientists suspect that something in the birds' diets may once again provide an answer, the precise causes remain unknown.

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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iStock

Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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