The Potoo bird is one of the most fascinating animals found in the jungles of Central and South America. With its mottled brown plumage and small, slender body, it looks like a common bird at first glance. However, its behavior and abilities are extraordinary. It is a king of camouflage.
Characteristics of the Potoo bird
The Potoo belongs to the Nyctibiidae family and is found throughout the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina. They are often called “nocturnal birds” because of their crepuscular behavior and feeding at night. They are solitary and spend most of the day resting on tree branches, where they camouflage themselves perfectly thanks to their ability to mimic the texture and color of the tree trunk. They are difficult to detect during the day, as they remain motionless and with their eyes closed, which makes them look like a branch or a knot in the tree.
During the night, Potoos come out to hunt insects. They are excellent hunters, thanks to their large mouth opening that allows them to capture large prey in mid-flight. Their flight is silent and they possess remarkable night vision favored by their large eyes.
Its ability to confuse predators is extraordinary. If it feels threatened, the bird adopts a unique posture: it closes its eyes and raises its beak skyward. This gives it the appearance of a split branch or a dead branch, making it difficult to see where it is.
This ability to camouflage itself and confuse predators is increasingly important due to deforestation and urbanization in many areas of its habitat.
It measures about 35 centimeters and is also known as the witch bird, stake bird, guajojó, ayaymamá or nictibio urutaú. It lays a single egg and is incubated by the male during the day and by the female at night. Its incubation period is 33 days.
Legend has it…
According to a legend of the Guarani Indians of South America, the Potoo was a celestial messenger sent by the Sun God to bring news to humans during the night. Legend has it that the Sun God created him with brown feathers and giant eyes so that he could see in the dark and find his way in the night.
Its song is very peculiar, it is like a lament or as if someone were crying. Another of its legends tells that in Peru, once there was an epidemic in a tribe. A mother, knowing she was infected, took her two children to the forest and left them there to avoid contagion. At night, the children looked for their mother while crying because they could not find her. They wished they could become birds to find their mother and call her from the air. The spirit of the jungle took pity on them and turned them into a Potoo bird. When they arrived home, they did not find their mother, so they continue lamenting with their peculiar song “ayaymamá”, as this bird is called in Peru.