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
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Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!