Today’s uncommon creature is a stinkbird, which is more formally known as a hoatzin (suggested by Guest Doodlewasher, Kathrin Werner). This unusual creature from the swamps in South America is about the size of a pheasant and has a rather distinct blue face and maroon eyes. Along with its spiky reddish-brown hairdo, it’s quite a sight to behold. It’s also a bird that you are better off viewing from a safe distance due to its other key characteristic that has earned it’s rather insulting nickname. But it’s an accurate one, as the stinkbird actually does smell like poop.

The unpleasant smell is a mixture of rotting leaves and fresh cow manure, and is a wonderful defense mechanism that drives away predators, including humans. Though they resemble game birds, they are not hunted and have earned a reputation for being toxic; however, there’s not real proof of whether or not this is true. Only famine has ever pushed a human to attempt to hunt them for food, and even then, extremely reluctantly. Eating something that smells like fresh cow poop is always a bit of a last resort as it certainly doesn’t make for very appetizing eating.

But the poor stinkbird can’t help smelling like a cow, because it’s the only bird in the world that lives almost entirely on leaves and then ferments them. Like their bovine role models, this bird actually digests its food through a process called foregut fermentation. Leaves are kind of a crappy diet, so the bacteria in the upper part of the digestive tract help to break them down and very slowly extract the most nutrients over time. And well, fermenting leaves smell kind of poopy. Luckily, no other bird in the Amazon seems to have this smelly little skill making the stinkbird truly uncommon! If you have ideas for other uncommon creatures, shout them out in the comments!

About the Doodlewash

M. Graham watercolors: Dioxazine Purple, Azo Orange, Pyrrol Red, Cobalt Blue, Gamboge, Neutral Tint and Titanium White Gouache. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink and second pen with Platinum Carbon sepia ink in a 5″ x 8″ 140 lb. (300 gsm) Pentalic Aqua Journal


Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

57 replies on “The Stinkbird

  1. You made this wacky bird very cute!❤ My son is fascinated with the hoatzin because of the two extra claws on the "elbows" of the juvies (those are only present in the embryonic stages of other birds). He's not talked much about the stench aspect. One of our bird books said that despite their smell, their flesh is said to be palatable.🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks Jodi!! ❤️😃 Yeah… The eyes on this thing were so cool! I completed the eye first to make sure I got it right. If I’d messed that up I would have had to start over! Hehe But this is one creature I’m fine with not meeting in person. Can’t imagine what that smell must be like! 😳

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fun stuff! And marvellous! Indeed, you’ve painted an endearingly extravagant and pretty bird – the eye is so beautiful. Shame about the smell, though, eh? I suppose it can’t have it all, the poor thing! And what an unfortunate (if obviously apt) nickname to give it – ‘stinkbird’, blimey. I shall refer to them as hoatzin, unless I encounter one I suppose!😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacob!! Yeah… It’s such a show bird and glamour queen. Definitely doesn’t deserve such a cruel nickname. Then again…I’ve never met one in person, so the name may be really fitting. I don’t think I’ll be adding this one to my list of exotic animals I’d like to own! Lol Poo bird is not making the list!

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      1. Hahaha, Poo Bird – the lesser known Sesame Street character; he didn’t last long ‘cos he stunk up the ratings.😉 Quite – I shall keep my distance if I can, which happily means I shan’t have to give the seals nose plugs.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s certainly an interesting looking creature. With its coloring and features, I guess they really stand out and would need the foul smell to drive predators away. I hope I never encounter one in person.. I wonder if the smell lingers links the skunk smell.. 😁

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  4. I love this birds story, especially as I have never heard of them before, you have truly shown its beauty, but I am pleased you could only replicate that and not its stinky aura….especially as I am eating breakfast! I would love to see an axolotl….we used to have one at collage, many years ago when I was studying my A levels, I remember staring at this poor creature in a tank, thinking how odd and yet beautiful it was…..and wishing it was free and not stuck in a tank, check them out if you are unfamiliar with their story….I think would also be a great creature to paint/ draw.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. To every good thing… so they say. giggle. Have you heard of the “Stink cabbage” ? I saw a college plant them for color it was fun to see them when they bloomed and had to upchuck their garden (literal and figurative)

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