The Stinkbird

The Stinkbird Doodlewash

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


Recommended1 recommendationPublished in By Charlie
  1. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    Oh my, what an exotic bird. His beauty outweighs his stinkyness. Charlie, I think you have found your calling, painting the weird and exotic, berautifully doodlewashed. Thanks for the post.

    • Author

      Thanks Sharon!! 😃💕 yeah…it’s such an interesting bird …but glad this wasn’t an urban sketch! Stinky!! Hehe… And I like that calling…the weird and exotic are my favorite subjects! 😊

  2. Teresa Robeson 7 years ago

    You made this wacky bird very cute! <3 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. 🙂

    • Author

      Hehe…thanks Teresa!! 💕😃 This was such a kooky looking bird I just had to try one. Shame about the poop smell though. Oh well…nature is mysterious.

  3. Jodi 7 years ago

    WowZa!! That maroon eye shines. What an amazing job you did with this adorable stinky creature charlie o. Love !! ❤️💜💙💚💛👋🏼👋🏽

    • Author

      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! 😳

  4. Curious to the Max 7 years ago

    The Stink bird, if you will
    is a walking, pecking still
    Its cow poop smell
    is just a cover
    for a liquor lover.

  5. jotsfromasmallapt 7 years ago

    I’m with Sharon (above)…your unusual affinity for creating spectacular paintings of these “odd-balls” is awesome! Your calling perhaps has been heard….are you listening? Grins to you, Charlie…and my best!

    • Author

      It’s definitely an unusual affinity, but an affinity nonetheless. Guess I should listen…hehe Thanks Raylene! ❤️😃

  6. memadtwo 7 years ago

    Yes, a great eye…not to mention the beak…I think I’ve seen that hairdo on Broadway. Perhaps a distant relative (plenty of South Americans around here). (K)

    • Author

      Thanks, Kerfe! 😃Haha! I think that I’ve definitely seen that hairdo on Broadway… also during the 80’s … There’s sort of “mall bangs” going on here.

  7. Woo, he’s splendiferous! Love him, Charlie! I think he belongs in Vegas!

  8. Carol 7 years ago

    Looks like a Jim Henson creation. Despite its stinky smell 💩, you made this birdy look quite handsome and colorful!

    • Author

      Why thank you Carol!! 💕😃Hehe…there’s is a definitive Muppet vibe going on here. No wonder I liked this smelly thing! Love Henson!

  9. Jacob 7 years ago

    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! 😉

    • Author

      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!

      • Jacob 7 years ago

        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.

  10. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Lovely painting, beautiful eyes…love the depth and reflection. Delightfully uncommon…adoring from a distance.

  11. websitedesigning2016 7 years ago


  12. M. L. Kappa 7 years ago

    What a fun idea! Love the unusual factoids!

  13. Tunda 7 years ago

    This birds defense mechanism…. 🙂 am also liking the painting, its amazing

  14. Kari 7 years ago

    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.. 😁

    • Author

      Thanks Kari!! 😃💕lol…I was wondering the same thing. From what I read the smell isn’t as bad as a skunk though… I think they still win for foul smells! 😊hehe

  15. 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.

    • Author

      Thanks Rebecca!! 😃💕Yeah…I wondered after I posted how many people would catch this one while eating…hehe…sorry for that! Lol and axolotl is added to the list…so cool looking!! Nice!

  16. kathiwerner 7 years ago

    Beautifully drawn – and great choice :-). What a fun story of this bird smells…

    • Author

      Awww thanks Kathrin!! 😃💕 Yeah it’s actually a beautiful bird… Guess you can’t have it all. Hehe… price to pay for smelling funny.

  17. YesterdayAfter 7 years ago

    Very cute Charlie and a great story post! I leave you an invite I am hosting a Meet and Greet weekly session on my Blog I would love to see you there sharing the link to your wonderful Blog! Everyone is welcome share the love! <3

    • Author

      Thanks so much!! Glad you liked this!! And I’ll definitely try to stop by today!! 😉Thanks friend! 😃💕

      • YesterdayAfter 7 years ago

        You’re welcome Charlie it would be great if you sop by! And soon you will receive all the material for your post. Sorry I have been a bit busy but I am working on it! <3

  18. Cathe 7 years ago

    What a cool looking bird. All the makings of a very handsome foul…that is until the smell issue. Love your vibrant colors!

    • Author

      Hehe…more of handsome “fowl” today I guess. Can’t even imagine what the stench is like but thought this creature was pretty awesome looking. Thanks Cathe!! 😃💕

  19. jellico84 7 years ago

    Awww, he’s kinda cute.

    • Author

      Thanks!😃 Isn’t he? Too bad about the smell though.

      • jellico84 7 years ago

        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)

  20. Susan Feniak 7 years ago

    How unfortunate that such an exotic looking bird has been named stinkbird! And smells as bad as its nickname. Thanks for the introduction Charlie. I think. 🙂

  21. Teri C 7 years ago

    You are really showing us some amazing creatures, beautifully painted and, well, weird. 😄

  22. Tom Merriman 7 years ago

    This one seems to have a prehistoric feel, Charlie – in my mind I was seeing it running around with tiny dinosaurs. My mind runs away with me at times…

  23. Elizabeth Metz 5 years ago

    Ha! “Kind of a crappy diet”…. I see what you did there.

    That thing looks downright prehistoric, too. And kind of oddly cute. It may just be your portrait, though. 😀

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      haha!! I didn’t see what I did there until you pointed it out! Awesome! LOL 😃💕 Yeah, it’s actually a selfie!

      • Elizabeth Metz 5 years ago

        You have markedly more feathers than your profile picture.

        I’m just saying.


  24. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    The stinkbird. What an awesome nationbird that would make! Thank you for the entertaining information, Charlie!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 5 years ago

      You’re quite welcome! 😃💕 Yeah, how cool to have the Stinkbird as your state bird… that would be awesome!

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