Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Amazonia, Ecuador 🇪🇨
Paddling along a tributary of Ecuador’s Napo River shortly after dawn, I felt closer to the rainforest than on any previous visit. A tangled mesh of vegetation cascaded down from the canopy above and trailed in the water next to my canoe.⠀
By no stretch of the imagination could hoatzins be described as beautiful. They have a few assorted handsome features, to be sure, but the total of these parts almost borders on the grotesque.⠀
The species has been seen as living evidence of the transition between reptiles and birds – the wing claws of young hoatzins are frequently cited as proof of ancient ancestry. But the trait probably evolved separately in hoatzins rather than inherited directly from Archaeopteryx and other early birds.
You couldn't think that a bird could be this beautiful, but the hoatzin is a bird unlike any other. And that's what makes it that much more special.