Oilbird, or Guácharo, a bird that lives in northern South America, from Guyana to Peru. Oilbirds are only 13 inches (33 cm) long, but have a wingspread of nearly 3 feet (90 cm). Their plumage is cinnamon brown, with small, white spots.
Oilbirds nest on ledges in deep caves in the mountains or along the coast. Their nests are mounds of organic matter with a depression in the top. These birds eat the oily fruit of palms and laurels. Formerly, the young were caught by Indians and boiled to obtain the oil—hence the name oilbird. The oil, which keeps well, was used in cooking.
During the day oilbirds stay in their caves, but at night they fly out to look for fruit. To find their way in the dark, they make audible, metallic-sounding clicks. The sound of the echoes tells them the position of obstacles. They are able to hear the echoes through their normal cries and screams, a din that has earned them their Spanish name, guácharo (one who cries and laments).
There is one species of oilbird, Steatornis caripensis, the only member of the oilbird family, Steatornithidae.