Hoatzin Symbolism: 8 Spiritual Meanings of Hoatzin

Last weekend I was at a music festival and met a girl with a rarely seen tattoo on her arm. I couldn’t figure it out, so I asked her about the meaning.

She told me it was a tattoo of a hoatzin bird and that it had a special meaning for her. I didn’t want to be nosy and ask too many questions, so I decided to explore hoatzin symbolism and find the answer to my questions.

I found many fascinating meanings and symbols this bird might represent, so keep reading to learn more!

Hoatzin Meaning

Interesting Facts About Hoatzin

Like always, the best way to understand the symbolism of an animal is to learn some basic facts about the said animal. This way, the symbols don’t seem so random, and they actually have a logical meaning.


Hoatzin inhabits swamps, forests, and mangroves of the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America. Hoatzin can be found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela. It is the national bird of Guyana, where it is called the Canje pheasant.

It is believed that hoatzin originated from Europe or Africa, since the time when all continents were connected. Later, when the continents separated, this creature continued to live and evolve in South America, and today it is the only member of the genus Opisthocomus, family, and order, which means it has no cousins or related species.


This species of tropical bird has a similar size as the pheasant bird. It has a featherless head with blue skin and maroon eyes. On top of their heads, hoatzins have a large crest. Males and females look the same. They have dark grey and brownish plumage in color.

Young have claws on the tips of their wings. These claws are useful for latching onto the trees, especially in danger. This feature has earned them the “reptile bird” nickname, as they look similar to the extinct archaeopteryx. As they grow up, hoatzins lose their claws.


Hoatzins breed in small colonies during the rainy seasons, when they lay 2-3 eggs in their nests. After 32 days, the eggs hatch, and the younglings are fed with fermented regurgitated food.

Hoatzins are territorial birds, especially when they are taking care of their offspring. The hoatzins in the same colony help each other when building the nests and when protecting the young.

Other Hoatzin Facts

Hoatzin is also known as a stinkbird or skunk bird due to its unpleasant smell. This smell occurs in the hoatzins gut when the plants are broken down during the bacterial fermentation.

Hoatzins feed on leaves, buds, flowers, and fruits, but they will sometimes accidentally ingest the insects with the plant matter.

These birds are quite loud and can be heard making various sounds, from grunting and croaking when communicating with each other to hissing when protecting their young.

They can fly only short distances, and their bodies are more developed for climbing over tree branches.

Common Hoatzin Symbolism

Common Hoatzin Symbolism 

As a forgotten evolution branch, hoatzin symbolizes old and forgotten things and represents ancient wisdom. Native Americans believe that hoatzin, among other birds, is a messenger between gods and people and can symbolize new beginnings.

Not Everything Is As It Looks

Also, at first sight, hoatzins might look grotesque and clumsy, and their distinct odor isn’t really helping them to make a good first impression.

However, the first impression is often misleading, and hoatzins are quite confident animals relying on the callus on their breastbones to keep their balance and move with ease, even among the high tree branches.

This teaches us that there is more to everything than you can see at first sight. Not everything is as it seems, especially when it comes to people.

Try a Different Approach

Hoatzin also teaches you to look at things from different angles. If one angle isn’t yielding any results, try a different approach,

This bird is not only a good climber, but it will also swim underwater when necessary, which symbolizes the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. In other words, one shouldn’t overthink their current situation and capabilities. Instead, they should explore new possibilities and experiment with their talents.

Alternative Meanings

Hoatzins represent security, self-preservation, and the importance of community. Since they live near bodies of water, they are often connected to the Water Element and Spirit Realm.

Also, hoatzins symbolize balance, memories, family, strategy, puzzles, and everything that’s unconventional.

As a symbol of family, hoatzin may be a reminder for you to spend more time with your family, friends, and loved ones. Cherish the memories you make in your life, as they made you into what you are today.

Think strategically when making new steps in any direction, and don’t be afraid to think and act unconventionally. Don’t settle for any kind of mediocrity in your life.

Hoatzins and their bad odor can be a warning that you should evaluate your behavior towards other people, especially if they’re showing discomfort because of the way you treat them.

Hoatzin’s meat is known to be foul and unpleasant to eat. Native American tribes avoided eating this meat, except in situations of extreme desperation. Hence, this bird also represented famine, hunger, and other duress.

Hoatzin Meaning In the Modern Age

Hoatzin Meaning In the Modern Age

The modern age is characterized by the human’s need to be individualistic. We also search for new ways to express ourselves, to express our feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes, and ambitions.

This makes the hoatzin bird a perfect symbol for this age. This ancient bird species survived on its own for thousands and millions of years, but it wouldn’t be possible if hoatzins weren’t helping each other whenever needed.

This teaches us that being independent and individualistic is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean you need to be alone in this world. Having a strong support system is extremely important when you are not able to face certain problems and hardships on your own.

Hoatzins are best known for their unique appearance, and many people today are not afraid to look different, act different, love different things, and lead different lives than most other people.

Of course, even in this modern age, we still need to remember our past and our roots and learn from our mistakes. People are rejecting old ways of life, but there are still some pearls of wisdom from ancient times that could be incorporated into our lives.

Hoatzin Spirits And Their Significance

You probably wonder what it means to have a hoatzin bird as your power, spirit, or totem animal.

Hoatzin Power Animal: Having a hoatzin as your power animal often means that you need to ruminate over some thoughts and old memories to be able to uncover the truth. However, the truth might not always be easy to swallow, and you will probably need some time to process it.

People with hoatzin as a power animal know how to keep unwanted people away, especially when those unwanted people don’t know how to take “no” as an answer.

Also, hoatzin, as a power animal, brings balance and stability to your life, making you confident even during the times when you feel a bit shaky.

If the hoatzin is your power animal, you might struggle to find your place in the world, but instead of despairing and giving up, you should focus on exploring your unique talents.

Hoatzin Spirit Animal: Hoatzin spirit animal will be there for you when you are looking for answers. However, it will only help you along the way; you will have to solve the puzzle on your own.

It will also warn you to stay away from some potentially dangerous situations and people, you just need to listen to your intuition.

Since this bird has unique digestion, you should also take care of what you eat and drink and in which amounts. It will also remind you to stay hydrated.

People with Hoatzin as a spirit animal are passionate and extroverted, but sometimes they can drive people away.

Hoatzin Totem Animal: Having hoatzin as your totem animal probably means you are interested in old things, antiques, traditions, and history. You are wise beyond your age, although at first, you might look unassuming.

You value your family and friends and love to be surrounded by many people. The connections you make with people are rewarding and enriching for everyone involved.

You might struggle with changes, especially if they are sudden. However, your creative mind will help you to think out of the box and overcome any obstacles.

The Symbolism Behind Hoatzin Tattoos

The Symbolism Behind Hoatzin Tattoos

People choose to ink their bodies with images of hoatzin birds for various reasons. For people coming from Guyana, this tattoo is a tribute to their motherland, family, and loved ones.

However, some people, like the girl from the beginning of my story, choose hoatzin tattoos for different reasons. The hoatzin tattoo often represents eccentricity, uniqueness, creativity, and the courage to live your life on your own terms.

Also, the hoatzin tattoo might represent the idea of staying true to yourself while still being adaptive enough to survive and thrive in new environments.

What Does a Hoatzin Dream Mean?

Dreams with hoatzins are certainly memorable, and they serve as warnings and messages. They can serve as reminders to look into your past when looking for answers to new questions.

Dreaming a hoatzin can warn you that challenging times are ahead of you but that you are well-equipped to deal with any problem that might come onto your path.

Final Words

Hoatzin birds, although looking weird and smelling bad when you first encounter them, are actually fascinating animals with rich symbolism and even richer history.

They represent the old times, wisdom, family, balance, security, uniqueness, etc. Hoatzin will guide you through life and help you avoid various obstacles and dangers as a power, spirit, or totem animal.

What do you think about hoatzin as a guiding spirit? Could you see yourself connected with this animal on a spiritual level? Write in the comments!

Hoatzin Meaning

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