Monday, January 13, 2014

Hoatzin: Here's A 'Do

The Hoatzin aka Jacu-cigano (pronounced “Zhah-koo See-GAHN-oh) [literally translated "Gypsy Guan"] is one of the most interesting birds that I've had the pleasure of encountering in my adventures around Goiás.

July means following the tradition of camping on an island in the Araguaia River Basin. When I had the opportunity to explore the more secluded areas of the surrounding waterways, I repeatedly heard what sounded like a group of angry monkeys within the forest. Turns out, it wasn't anything of the sort. It was the very vocal Hoatzin.

As we puttered down the winding canals through low-hanging branches of native plants and overgrown foliage, we were almost always ambushed at some point, by a group of Hoatzins fleeing from... us.

It was funny, because we wouldn't even be aware of their presence until they burst out of the brush, right over the boat. They would strategically wait until we were about two yards (or meters) away from wherever they were hiding, and about a dozen would burst out of the trees, screaming and flapping like crazy.

They could have just as easily remained hidden in their natural camouflage, and we never would've known they were there. Fellow campers noted that we were lucky that they weren't a bigger, fuzzier, fangier creature such as a Jaguar aka Onça (pronounced: OWN-suh). True, but that would have made a far more awesome set of pics.

I suspect that all the screaming is to momentarily catch a predator off-guard so there's no time to pursue them. (It's kinda hard to give chase mid-heart attack.) The Hoatzin is said to be a distant relative of the cuckoo which seems fitting, since they seem to be a little on the crazy side.

Hoatzins are hands down the kookiest birds I've been around, and from what I understand, they have a certain odor that has earned them the nickname "Stinkbird" in English. I'm assuming I was always upwind, so I cannot attest to their fragrance.

I can confirm their strange beauty, though. They have a periwinkle blue face, maroon eyes, wings of alternating earth tones, and a 'Do that reminds me of a certain famous Brazilian soccer star, Neymar (pronounced: "NAY-mar"). We affectionately nicknamed the birds as such.

All photos of Neymar found on Google

Regrettably, I was unable to get any clear shots due to the settings of my camera, and the effective evasive maneuvers (rapid retreat) by the subjects. Below are the precious few glimpses I did manage to catch of these fantastic feathered fugitives.

This is one of the many species allegedly found only in the Amazonian Basin further north, according to Wikipedia sources. However, I've personally been able to document several species of creatures that are "officially" off the Grid, and call the Araguaia River home. I guess we could call it the Incognito Cigano.

(To enlarge pictures, right-click and open in a new window.)

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