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Hoatzin a Name?

October 8, 2014

Hoatzin a Name?

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Nat Moss Nat Moss

In the rainforests of South America’s Amazon and Orinoco river basins, it is called the “stinkbird.” A diet of fresh leaves gives the hoatzin (pr. wätˈsēn) its distinctive odor, said to smell like manure or sweet hay.

But the hoatzin’s unseemly nickname belies its odd beauty. The pheasant-sized bird sports a grand orange crest that gave rise to its genus Opisthocomus, translating roughly to “wearing long hair behind.”

Each wing of a young hoatzin has two claws, an unusual adaptation associated with the dinosaur-era Archaeopteryx. From a nest built over water, the immature hoatzin decamps when threatened, swims to shore, then claws its way home.

With its blue face and wild, tufted coiffure, the hoatzin seems to have sprung from the imagination of Dr. Seuss or the Looney Tunes animators. Stinkbird schminkbird. I like these guys.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For October, we at Wild View are getting in the spirit of Halloween. We’re celebrating nature that often elicits alarm. The animals that creep and crawl. The full moons that brighten night skies. The bats, the vultures, the snakes. Swallow your anxiety and join us. Fear not, it’s actually quite amazing.

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