At first sight nothing seems out of the ordinary about this bird, but beyond its exterior lies characteristics that makes this bird one of the most unusual species in the world.
Birds of a different feather
• They are also called 'The Stinkbird' because of their repulsive smell that keep predators at bay and making their flesh inedible.
• The have the same digestive systems as cows (the only bird in the world with foregut fermentation)
• They have two claws on each wing, chicks use the claws to rummage about in the trees
• The Hoatzin uses a leathery bump on the bottom of its crop to help balance itself on the branches
The swamps of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America is home to very unusual bird, the Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin) or ‘stinkbird’. It is a brown pheasant-sized bird some 65 cm long, with a long neck and small head. It has a blue face with maroon eyes, and its head is topped by a spiky, rufous crest. Besides its appearance, the Hoatzin has features that sets it apart from all other bird species.
The first distinctive characteristic of the Hoatzin is their very repulsive smell. This odor keeps predators, including humans, at bay and it also makes their flesh inedible. Studies showed that the Hoatzin’s odor comes from the way it digests the leaves it eats. Uniquely among birds, the Hoatzin has developed foregut fermentation. Hoatzins use bacterial fermentation in the front part of the gut to break down the vegetable material they consume, much like cattle and other ruminants. Hoatzins is said to consume more than 50 species of leaves. Despite the abundance of leaves in the tropics, no other bird has any kind of foregut fermentation. How the hoatzin came to develop this is a mystery.
The Hoatzin uses a leathery bump on the bottom of its crop to help balance itself on the branches. The Hoatzin also has a very primitive characteristic that dates back to the Jurassic era. Their chicks have two very recognizable claws on each wing which are used to rummage about in the trees. Adult birds still have their claws but are no longer of any use to them. This enigmatic bird is so unique that scientists has struggled to classify it under a family of birds. Because of this it has been given its own family, the Opisthocomidae, and its own suborder, the Opisthocomi.