Hoatzin

The hoatzin bird lives in the dense rain forests along streams and rivers in South America.

The hoatzin is a very colorful bird with a blue head, a tuft of feathers standing up on the head, and an orange iris in the eye.

The upper parts of the hoatzin’s body are brown with whitish streaks on the back. The feathers on the neck and breast are fawn-colored with the underparts being reddish-brown. The hoatzin is about the size of a chicken.

The main source of food for the hoatzin is leaves and fruits of aquatic plants. Arum plants are a large part of their diet. Because leaves are hard to digest, God designed the hoatzin with an extra stomach, called a “crop,” in its throat. This crop has special enzymes which break down the leaves before they enter the regular stomach.

The nesting spot for the hoatzin is located on a limb just above the water surface of a stream. The female lays two to five eggs, which hatch after 28 days. The hatchlings are naked at birth but are able to move around. They can leave the nest after three days. They will follow other members of the family around in the trees begging for food. The baby chicks have two claws on their feet and two wing claws, which make it possible for them to scramble over the branches in the trees. When danger approaches, the little chick will climb away from the danger or, if it must, it can dive into the water and swim to safety. When the danger is past, the hoatzin climbs back up into the tree.

The young hoatzin learns to fly when it is about six weeks old. To learn to fly well can take up to four months, and when they have mastered flying, their wing claws drop off.

Usually, a family flock will help in raising the young by building the nest, sitting on the eggs, and feeding the young. The family flock consists of the parents and older offspring, which may linger in the flock for 4 to 5 years.

Hoatzin

Galliformes • Opisthocomidae
Opisthocomus hoazin

Weight: 28.5 ounces (800 g)
Length: 24 inches (60 cm)
Special Design Feature: The young hoatzin has two claws on its wings to help it climb around in the trees but these atrophy when they learn to fly.
Did you know? Although it is not an aquatic bird, a young hoatzin can swim if it falls into the water.