Tuesday, August 16, 2016

By J.E. Rogers

It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted to the Aussie blog. I took a vacation, and it felt good, but now it’s back to talking to you all about those unusual animals that inhabit planet earth.

While paging through one of my many volumes on animals, I came across this critter, and my first reaction was, ‘it’s a chicken!’ It’s not a chicken at all. As a matter of fact, scientists tried to classify this bird with cuckoos, pheasants, pigeons, and turacos, but that didn’t work so they created a classification specifically for it—Opisthocomiformes, which means strange comb-like hair. Well, let’s take a look.

Meet the Hoatzin!

Photo credit: La Selva Lodge, Ecuador, January 2009

Yup, that’s some very strange hair.

The Hoatzin is native to the Amazon. It is found in the lowlands of northern South American and throughout Amazonia. It is a pheasant-sized bird with a total length of approximately twenty-six inches. It has a long neck, a small head with a crest, an unfeathered blue face and maroon eyes.  

Photo credit: Wikipedia

These birds are not good fliers and therefore are not migratory, preferring a sedentary life in trees. Their attempts to fly sometimes end with a crash landing. Found by rivers, Hoatzins will build their nests in trees overhanging the water. If a predator attacks a nest, the chicks will drop out of the nest to the water and will climb out of the water with the use of ancient claws on their wings. It’s hard to imagine, so take a moment to check out this video:

The Hoatzin is the only bird that has these unusual claws. However, the claws are only seen in the chicks, and they disappear as the young bird matures. To read more about claws on the wings of birds, visit this site: http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/2010/06/30/clubs-spurs-spikes-and-claws/

This video provides information about the Hoatzin and the extraordinary claws that are found on chicks.

Hoatzin chick – Photo credit: National Geographic

Some scientists believed that the Hoatzin is somehow related to the now extinct Archaeopteryx. Looking at renderings of the Archaeopteryx, like the one below, might bring anyone to the same conclusion. In 2015, genetic research on the Hoatzin was conducted.


It was discovered that it is the last surviving member of a bird line that branched off into a separate direction about sixty-four million years ago. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoatzin)

Photo credit: Animal Kingdom Magazine (Animal Planet)

The Hoatzin is also known as the ‘stink bird.’ He got this nasty moniker because he likes to eat a lot of greens and store it in his crop. A crop is a pouch in the throat that aids in digestion. The crop of the Hoatzin is fifty times the size of his stomach. The chewed leaves sit in the crop and begin to ferment, which causes a stench. The result is a horrid smell much like that of manure. Seems that the name ‘stink bird’ is well applied.

Finally, here is a very short video. I think it’s wonderful because it is a close-up of a single bird displaying his beautiful feathers for us as he struts along a branch on a river. Take a moment to watch.

To learn more about the Hoatzin, visit the following sites:

Taking a Sip
Photo credit: Animalworld.tumbler.com

Oh, one last thing. I am thrilled to announce that the beautiful Hoatzin is not endangered.

Thank you for visiting, and do come by again next week. Don’t forget to leave a comment or share my post.

Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
The Sword of Demelza, The Gift of Sunderland, and
One Hot Mess, a Child’s Environmental Fable
Award Winning Middle-Grade Fantasy, Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages!

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