They look exotic. And glamorous. And oddly disproportionate.
They fly clumsily and land awkwardly; barely hanging on to slim branches not quite right for their bulky bodies.
Even when out of sight, they emit loud, gasping sounds to announce their presence.
They have bird-like features, but the digestive system of a cow. Yeah, a large stomach compartment to ferment the food before digestion. They are herbivores, and emit a foul odor, making them unappealing to predators, but allowing them to hang out conspicuously and make grunt noisily.
Their babies are born with claws on their wings (weirder and weirder) as a form of self defense to grab branches to avoid falling into the water.
Watching them for about an hour on a gentle boat ride, I got thinking about their evolution history. Later, it was thrilling to learn that scientists have debated over their taxonomy for years, concluding that the Hoatzin branched off from other bird species soon after the extinction of dinosaurs. They sport a look that seems to say they just woke up from a 64-million year sleep, thinking, “what did I miss?”. And yet, they are not endangered, due to having no natural predators, even humans being put off by their stinky aura.
No matter how misfit they may appear, it was a privilege to have seen these spectacular creatures, hearing their gasps and squawks and admiring their place in nature. You be You, Hoatzin!