By Marla Lise

Scientific Name: Opisthocomus hoazin

The hoatzin has to be one of the strangest birds found in the Amazon. This bird looks like a chicken and has more than one stomach, just like a cow! That explains why it is sometimes known as the ‘Flying Cow’.

This dinosaur-like bird gives off a strange reptile-like odor and makes a loud call. They are very clumsy when they fly with their large wings and small head.

‘Opisthocomus’, its Latin name, comes from the feathers that run down its back. They have a big claw on the end of their wings that they use to protect themselves. Hoatzin chicks are able to hide underwater to escape from predators, but adult birds cannot swim. Adults can lay 4-5 blue spotted eggs at a time.

Hoatzin. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
These strange looking birds are sometimes killed for their meat and feathers but they are not considered endangered.

Hoatzins are strictly vegetarian, feeding on plants, flowers and fruits and are usually found in big groups near water bodies such as swamps and mangroves.

The hoatzin is the national bird of Guyana, a small country in northeastern South America.


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