Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Stinking turkey

I always feel that way by about the 27th - there are only so many sandwiches you can have, after all.
Actually though, I just used that title as an excuse to publish a picture of my favourite bird of the year. It's the hoatzin, known by the locals in Ecuador as the Stinking Turkey, on account of the foul odour it gives off because of its bizarre digestive system, which would be more at home on a cow than a bird the size of a chicken. Its crop is so big it struggles to fly, and it spends most of its time perched while its stomach churns huge quantities of leaves.
Until quite recently, it was thought to be the direct descendant of the feathered dinosaur archaeopteryx, because the young birds have claws on their wings in a dinosaur fashion. It's now accepted that isn't the case, but nevertheless, seeing them stumbling about in the lower branches of the rainforest, it was impossible not to feel that there was something very primitive and other-worldly about them. A birder like me could hardly fail to enjoy a trip to Ecuador, but even the absurdly colourful macaws, tanagers and cotingas paled by comparison with this living fossil. The good news, too, is that having been around for millions of years, they're still not doing too badly, seemingly having carved out a unique ecological niche.
Anyway, I'm convinced that anytime now, I'm going to start writing poems about hoatzins (let's face it, it only takes a few winter thrushes to start me off usually). But if anyone else fancies trying it, send them here, and I'll post them. It's about time the hoatzin had its moment in the spotlight.


Kirk Wisebeard said...

My father bought a hoatzin
To try to keep his goatzin...
But the cunning living fossil
Couldn't give a tossil....

Neil said...

From the jungle I've just got home,
Through the forest I was taken to roam,
We saw many a wonderful bird,
But this one seemed so absurd.
He was cute but rather fat,
As in the branches he sat,
I know that he has a stink,
But my favourite, I rather think!!
By Brenda Smith