Family Old World Orioles (Oriolidae)

Least Concern

Northern Variable Pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus)


French: Pitohui variable German: Ockerpirol Spanish: Pitohuí variable norteño

Lanius kirhocephalus

Lesson and Garnot

, 1827,

Dorey, Vogelkop, New Guinea


Sister to P. dichrous, with which often sympatric#R. Usually treated as conspecific with P. uropygialis and P. cerviniventris, but recent molecular studies#R#R suggest that it breaks down into three distinct clades, adopted as three full species#R#R. This arrangement accepted here, albeit with considerable reservations over the split of P. uropygialis (which see). Proposed races adiensis (Adi I), stramineipectus (Triton Bay area) and carolinae (Etna Bay area) included in rubiensis#R; salvadorii (W coast of Geelvink Bay) appears to be an intergrade population. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. k. decipiens (Salvadori, 1878) – Onin Peninsula, in SW New Guinea.
  • P. k. kirhocephalus (Lesson & Garnot, 1827) – NE coast of Vogelkop (S to Momi).
  • P. k. dohertyi Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1903 – NW New Guinea (Wandammen district and adjacent islands).
  • P. k. rubiensis (A. B. Meyer, 1884) – NW New Guinea (head of Geelvink Bay to Triton Bay and Etna Bay); also Adi I (off S coast of Bomberai Peninsula).
  • P. k. brunneivertex Rothschild, 1931 – SE coast of Geelvink Bay (Siriwo to Wanggar R).
  • P. k. jobiensis (A. B. Meyer, 1874) – islands in NE Geelvink Bay (Yapen I, Kurudu I).
  • P. k. meyeri Rothschild & E. J. O. Hartert, 1903 – N coast of New Guinea from Mamberamo R E to Tami R.
  • P. k. senex Stresemann, 1922 – upper Sepik Valley (N New Guinea).
  • P. k. brunneicaudus (A. B. Meyer, 1891) – NE New Guinea from lower Sepik R E to upper Ramu R and N coast of Huon Peninsula.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–25·5 cm; 74–85 g (nominate), 90·5–103 g (dohertyi), 68–80 g (meyeri). Nominate race has head grey, upperparts dark reddish brown; wings and tail fuscous... read more


    Song loud, musical whistles mixed with scratchy notes in jumbled series, starting with shorter... read more


    Forest edges, tall secondary growth, disturbed forest, primary rainforest, swamp-forest, gardens;... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects and fruit. Ranges from understorey to canopy; often hides in dense vegetation. Joins mixed-species foraging flocks.


    Birds in breeding condition collected in Mar, Apr and Oct. Nestling in late Jun or early Jul. No other information.


    Presumably sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to very common in some areas, being generally commonest in lowland scrub; rare or absent in others. In places where very... read more

    Recommended citation

    Boles, W. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Northern Variable Pitohui (Pitohui kirhocephalus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 15 October 2018).