Travel Ecuador : Bird watching : Birds :

Hoatzin

When visiting jungle lodges in eastern Ecuador, many are situated on the shores of oxbow lakes. This habitat is the home of one of the strangest birds of the Amazon Rain Forest; the Hoatzin. Long thought to be a missing link between dinosaurs and birds because of the claws on its wings and general prehistoric appearance, it is now believed that this bird is related to Cuckoos. In many areas, locals call this bird the “Stink-bird” because of the unpleasant smell it can give off as a byproduct of fermentation of the leaves that make up a large part of its diet.

Identification
The Hoatzin is an unmistakable bird about the same size as a small turkey. It also looks rather turkey-like with its long tail, short wings, and rather long legs. Its plumage is brown and white with a striped pattern, the head with a wispy crest. The claws on the wings are difficult to see and require a very close look to notice but are more apparent in young birds that use this feature to keep from falling into the water. The Hoatzin also makes strange, harsh, cough-like vocalizations.

Behavior in Ecuador
Hoatzins are invariably seen lounging around the edges of oxbow lakes in the Amazon. If their fairly inactive behavior reminds you of cows, sheep, or other herbivores, this is because like these animals, Hoatzins are also largely herbivorous in nature. They seem inactive because they slowly clamber through the vegetation to leisurely yet methodically browse on the leaves. Also like many mammalian herbivores, the leafy food of Hoatzins ferments in their stomach during digestion.

Habitat and distribution in Ecuador
The Hoatzin is almost exclusively found in the tangled, vine-filled vegetation that occurs along the edges of oxbow lakes. Thus, in Ecuador, it is restricted to the eastern lowlands in the Amazon Rainforest.