- A-Z Animals
The Hoatzin, known by various other names like the stinkbird, skunk bird, Canje pheasant, or reptile bird, is a species of pheasant-sized birds found deep in the tropical wilderness and swamps of South America. It is a large, stubby bird that smells foul and is known to produce chicks with large claws on two wing digits, a physical characteristic, which has led some ornithologists and scientists to relate this species with the fossil of bird-like dinosaur Archaeopteryx.
Size: Its size is similar to that of pheasants, with a measurement of 26 in (65 cm) by total length.
Weight: The mass of a Hoatzin can vary between 1.78 and 2.2 lbs (0.8 and 1 kg).
Color: It is characterized by a blue face with bright red eyes, a reddish-brown rufous crest on its head, a long, sooty-brown tail, with the upper parts of wings being dark, sooty-brown and underparts being rich, rufous chestnut.
Body: It has a small head, short, stout bill, long neck, and a large body; the pair of wing claws is lost when a young bird develops into an adult.
Wings: Its wings are broad, rounded, and comparatively short.
The Hoatzin is distributed across the riparian forests and swamps in the Amazon and the Orinoco basins. It is also observed along the coastal areas of the Atlantic through Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.
Since the Hoatzin is a tropical bird species, its habitat includes freshwater marshes, swamps, banks of rivers, gallery forests, lakes, and streams.
In the wild, the Hoatzin’s average lifespan is about 14-15 years, but in captivity, it can survive for up to 29-30 years.
Being a folivore, it primarily eats leaves of more than fifty different plant species, including mangroves and arums. Its diet comprises about 82 percent leaves, 10 percent flowers, and 8 percent fruits. It can sometimes accidentally feed on animal matter or insects.
The Hoatzin starts breeding after it attains sexual maturity at one year of age. As a seasonal breeder, it mates in the rainy season, the timing of which can vary across its territory. After mating, it builds nests on the branches of trees located 6-15 feet over the surface of water. It usually lays 2-3 eggs, which hatch after an incubation period of 32 days. The hatchlings remain in the nest for 14-21 days after they hatch.
The Hoatzins, quite clearly spotted in the wild (because of their striking colors, weird shape, and poor flight), are not considered endangered. In some countries, like Brazil, their eggs are occasionally collected and the adult birds are hunted for food by the native people. However, this is quite rare because the Hoatzins leave a bad taste in the mouth. Even though the destruction of Hoatzin’s habitat is a growing threat in South America, the IUCN has listed this species as ‘Least Concern’.