Episode 30 – Hoatzin: The Fowl-Smelling Tree Cow

“…And today we are talking about a weird and clumsy birb that is inexplicably not endangered.”

Taxonomy Debate

Given its own order because it’s such a little weirdo. But some think it could be closely related to other birds like tinamous, the Galliformes (gamebirds), the rails, the bustards, seriemas, sandgrouse, doves, turacos and other Cuculiformes, and mousebirds. Others believe they come from prehistoric birds. One compelling reason is that it has claws on it’s wings when it is first hatched. Like archaeopteryx.


About the size of a pheasant. Multicolored with golden yellow breast, dark colored back, featherless blue face, yellow tufts on the top of the head, and red/brown/orange flight feathers. Long tail with distinct tail feathers that splay out. Long neck with a small head. Looks prehistoric.

Measure Up

Wingspan – 65 centimeters (26 in) – How many Hoatzins would it take to get to the top of Machu Pichu? 3,624 Hoatzins.

Length – 65 centimeters (26 in) -How many Hoatzin would it take to equal one topo, an Incan unit of measurement? Hint: a topo is 6,000 thatkiys (One pace). 12,068 Hoatzin

Weight –  816 g (1.8 pounds) – The average birth weight of Peruvian infants decreases (by 65 g) with every 500 meters of altitude by a specific rate. How many infant birth weight decreases would it take to equal an entire Hoatzin. About 12.5 Hoatzins.

Fast Facts

They eat 82% leaves, 10% flowers, and 8% fruit. They clamber around branches clumsily. Pretty tame and will let you get close, unless it gets sick of you. They are social and nest in colonies.

Adults nest above water in seasonally flooded forests. Hatchlings can climb away from nests when threatened by a predator.May also drop into the water and swim to safety.