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Opisthocomidae - hoatzin

HoatzinThere is only one bird in this family, and it is a strange bird! The hoatzin is found in the rainforests of the Amazon. It lives in family groups and is folivorous.

Folivorous animals eat mostly leaves. The hoatzin's diet is made up of mostly leaves, although it does eat some fruit and flowers. Because its diet is mostly made up of leaves, the hoatzin has an unusual digestive system. It has a large crop that uses bacteria to break down the leaves that it eats. The crop is a pouch-like extension of the esophagus that is found in birds. It is used to store food before digestion. The hoatzin is unique because it has bacteria in its crop that breaks down its food while it is still in the crop in a process called foregut fermentation. This process is usually found in mammal ruminants like cows and sheep, although in mammals the rumen is used for foregut fermentation instead of the crop. The hoatzin is the only bird species that uses foregut fermentation.

The hoatzin is about the size of a chicken - about 24-26 inches in length. It has a bright blue featherless face, red eyes, and a crest of feathers on its small head. It has a long neck and long tail feathers.

The hoatzin has claws on its wings that are used by young chicks to help them climb in the trees! The claws are useless on the wings of adult hoatzins.

World Status Key
Least ConcernLeast Concern Near ThreatenedNear Threatened VulnerableVulnerable EndangeredEndangered Critically EndangeredCritically Endangered extinct in the wildExtinct in Wild extinctExtinct
Status and range is taken from ICUN Redlist. If no status is listed, there is not enough data to establish status.

US Status Key
Threatened in US Threatened in US Threatened in New Hampshire Threatened in NH Endangered in US Endangered in US Endangered in NH Endangered in NH Introduced Introduced
Status taken from US Fish and Wildlife and NH Fish and Game

New Hampshire Species


 North/Central American Species

None   None

Species Around the World

Africa Africa Asia Asia Asia Australia/Oceania Europe Europe North America North America South America South America New Hampshire Species NH Species

Hoatzin - Opisthocomus hoazin Least Concern South America


Additional Information

Key: profile Article Photos Photos Video Video Audio Audio

Hoatzin - Opisthocomus hoazin profile Photos Least Concern South America
The hoatzin is found throughout the Amazon in northern and central South America.
Animal Diversity Web Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School

Hoatzin - Opisthocomus hoazin Photos Video Audio Least Concern South America
The hoatzin can be very territorial.
Internet Bird Collection b Intended Audience: General Reading Level: Middle School