Of all the animals in the world, birds are certainly some of the most elegant and beautiful. South America, in particular, is home to an assortment of fascinating bird species of all shapes and colours. In honour of this year’s Olympic Games, we’ll take a look at 3 of the most impressive and unusual birds of Brazil!
The blue-crowned motmot
There are many subspecies of the blue-crowned motmot and they can be hard to tell apart, some being confined to tiny areas of South or Central America, but all of them share the same intriguing characteristics. Like several other motmot species, blue-crowned motmots have very distinctive tails — somehow, a good portion of the barbs consistently comes off, leaving a bare feather shaft with a little tuft at the end! There has been some debate over what causes the barbs to fall off, but the leading theory is that they’re just not very well attached (probably a genetic predisposition). Motmots also lay their eggs in deep tunnels that they dig themselves, which is pretty unique among birds.
The Atlantic royal flycatcher
The Atlantic royal flycatcher is a little bird found exclusively in one area of Brazil. It may look plain at first glance, but once a while we get to catch a glimpse of its true colours! Both genders have these regal crests (reddish for the male, yellowish for the female) and they occasionally spread them out in an impressive display. The exact reasons for this are unknown, but it seems to be linked to various different ‘high-excitement’ situations like courtship rituals or squabbles between males.
The hoatzin, a big bird found in northern Brazil, is by far the strangest entry on this list. Not only does it have a striking combination of colours and patterns, it also has claws. Not just on its feet — on its wings, too! Amazingly, hoatzin chicks are born with two claws on each wing, which they can use to climb trees while they’re still young (they lose the use of them as adults). They can also swim, because the forests they live in are often flooded around the mating season and they need to be able to get back to their nest if they fall or jump off. Considering that most birds have fingers inside their wings and that all birds are distantly related to dinosaurs, it’s not that much of a surprise to find one who actually uses these fingers in a similar way to their ancestors, but it still makes the hoatzin a very cool and unique species!