It’s Elementary, my dear Hoatzin

Hoatzin. I just love saying it. You say it like it has a “W” in it.


It’s odd looking.

It makes a sound that reminded me of bagpipes filling up with air.

And it smells like a cow. Because it’s kind of like a cow. Really.

Oh, and this bird is so strange that there isn’t even a category for it in the field guide. Steve tells me that means it’s a “monotypic” species. (I love it when my husband starts talking all scientific. Total turn on.)

Sacha Lodge

Sacha Lodge

There were always several of them lurking around the shores of the lake outside Sacha Lodge where we were staying for four nights in the Amazon, and it was one of the first birds we saw on our trip to Ecuador. Every time we would canoe in from one of the creeks that fed into the lake I would  look forward to being greeted by the Hoatzins.

I immediately fell in love with this bird because it allowed me to get some nice shots of it. Thank you, nice bird!

So, let me introduce you to the Hoatzin.

Say "hello" to the Hoatzin.

Say “hello” to the Hoatzin.

The Hoatzin eats leaves, and because they have bacteria in their crop that’s where they digest the leaves and get their nutrition. A byproduct of this process is methane gas. Gross, I know. It’s the same process cows go through when eating grass, making it the only bird that does this, and why the Hoatzin is often referred to as the “stinky turkey.”

A pair of Hoatzin

A pair of Hoatzin

Another unique tidbit about the Hoatzin is that it’s a very primitive bird. Unlike any other bird on this planet today, the young are born with claws on their wings.  And because they nest over water, should a monkey or snake try to prey on them the young birds will escape by falling from the nest into the water and clamor away using the claws on their wings.

There it is--filling up with air.

There it is–filling up with air.

So, if you ever go to South America make sure you visit the Amazon basin so you can see these amazing, prehistoric-like birds. They are like nothing else you’ve ever seen.

Plus, they’ll let you take their picture.

If you want to read about our journey to Sacha Lodge, check out my story, The Amazon and Sacha Lodge: Getting there is half the fun (as long as there are toilets) on my other blog, The Baby Aspirin Years.

Other posts about this trip