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Is a bird with venomous claws possible? I want it to jump on people and scratch at their heads while they’re walking as a mating ritual. However, they need to be venomous for plot related reasons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Gives new meaning to the words "I'd kill for you." $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Aug 29 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ Hello, and welcome to world building, personally, I think you should add more detail to your question, such as explaining how poisonous the claws are, or explaining why the birds would do a mating ritual on a head. Also, I think you can remove, “however, they need to be venomous for plot related reasons”, because it adds unnecessary text to your question. $\endgroup$ – RotNDecay Aug 29 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ I could easily see a bird that harbored flesh-eating bacteria, and it wouldn't be a stretch to have the bird be immune to a deadly toxin produced by a bacteria growing on the claws. $\endgroup$ – DWKraus Aug 29 at 5:00
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    $\begingroup$ Would it work for the purposes of your plot, if the bird were a carrion scavenger bird like a vulture, and its claws were simply dirty with rotting meat ? This would likely lead to infection, and its already known in the real world. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Aug 29 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Why do I feel like Australia has this covered?? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 29 at 13:45
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I give you the Male Platypus

A quick Google search reveals that the male platypus has poison glands on their thighs and a hollow spur near their heels.

The platypus is not a bird, but it's a strange little honker and has, genetically speaking, a lot in common with birds.

The male platypus might be the only critter on the planet with venomous claws that has anything at all to do evolutionarily with birds.

However, one is all you need.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

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    $\begingroup$ More answers should involve platypuses. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 29 at 13:48
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Yes, it would be possible. There don't seem to be any bird which produces venom themselves but there could in your world, there are many types of poisonous.

A slight variant could be that the claws aren't venomous per se, but those birds would also be attacking other (venomous) animals/plants, and their claws keep traces of their venom (or at least they do often enough to be problematic in your world).

I don't see why they would want to jump on people. though. I think that would make humans very motivated into killing any of them they see flying near their cities.

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  • $\begingroup$ The biggest barrier is probably a way is required for the beak to inject the venom into people, that being the difference between venom and poison. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Aug 29 at 1:53
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    $\begingroup$ In fact, humans are very, very good at eliminating anything considered a threat or a competitor - in any age. We're the dominant species for a reason. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 29 at 1:56
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    $\begingroup$ You could also inject the venom with claws or spurs. In the modern world, this bird would be hunted to extinction by the end of the century. $\endgroup$ – NomadMaker Aug 29 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Ángel it could be a defence in matung season instead of a mating ritual? That is common in some birds. $\endgroup$ – Trioxidane Aug 29 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH And we're only getting more creative, like Oxitec mosquitos in Florida. NomadMaker: Honestly 'end of century' sounds slow. $\endgroup$ – Mark Aug 29 at 9:56
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Toxicity in birds is certainly possible.

Cool poisonous bird

Pitohuis use batrachotoxin, the same neurotoxin as several poison dart frogs. They get it from Choresine beetles, and then sequester the toxin in their skin, as well as excreting it to cover the feathers. Your bird would necessarily need some other means of processing the toxins so that they were excreted near the claws, but I don't think that barrier is prohibitive.

So yes, you can have a bird with poisonous claws (pedantic side note: since the bird isn't injecting the toxin via bite or sting, it's poisonous rather than venomous )

I think the larger barrier here isn't the toxicity, it's the "jump on people and scratch at their heads while they're walking as a mating ritual". What is the selective pressure to jump on people's heads??? Popular videos of birds shagging people's heads (like this , or this ) are usually:

a.) Birds that are very confused, and rather than performing a mating ritual, are actively attempting to copulate

b.) Same as a.), but with birds that have imprinted on humans and think that they are mating with a human.

c.) I actually don't have a c.), but the list seemed bare.

Summary: birds in normal circumstances don't shag peoples' heads.

You could maybe have local flora or geologica that vaguely resemble human heads, have the mating ritual center on those, and then have the birds be plausibly confused?

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    $\begingroup$ "You could maybe have local flora or geologica that vaguely resemble human heads" - smooth rock of vaguely appropriate size that is overgrown with long brown algae that surface during the low tide? That should be doable... $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 29 at 12:13
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As a mating ritual? Here's a video of what it would look like. And there are these things called hats. People might be inclined to wear them during mating season at least. You might do better making the the bird's saliva venomous and making it a n active hunter the size or a cassowary or similar like terror birds

From BBC

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    $\begingroup$ The one and only reason that I didn't give you +1 for the sake of that video alone ("He looks so happy!" I'll be laughing for a week.) is that you don't actually answer the question. This was a comment to the question (and would have been perfect as a comment....) However, -1 +1 = 0, so no net effect from me. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 29 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ Hey, what are the odds I'd you'd ever get a chance of posting that video as a response to any question, anywhere? Besides in fairness I did suggest making it a venomous bite and even suggested species that it might possibly evolve in. For the rest - the man involved was a world recognized wildlife photographer. I say 'was' because no matter what other great feats he may ever achieve he will only ever be remembered for one single thing! Fate is cruel. $\endgroup$ – Mon Aug 29 at 6:58
  • $\begingroup$ :-) I get it, but the OP was asking about venomous claws... I have to admit, that video was priceless. Stephen Fry was the perfect straight man. $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 29 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ And I'm still left trying to imagine what possible plot would require 'attacks' as seen in the video by birds on humans during the animals mating season. $\endgroup$ – Mon Aug 29 at 8:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Mon If the birds are your only form of livestock and require this to breed, it could be interesting. Interesting and amusing. $\endgroup$ – DKNguyen Aug 29 at 20:12

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