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Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Potoo

There are seven species of potoo in the world.  All of them live in the American tropics.  They break down as follows: Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis), Long-tailed Potoo (Nyctibius aethereus), Northern Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis), Andean Potoo (Nyctibius maculosus), Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus), White-winged Potoo (Nyctibius leucopterus), and Rufous Potoo (Nyctibius bracteatus).  I personally find these guys hilarious-looking, no matter what stance they're in.

The potoo is another nocturnal bird, awakening with the dusk to find their main diet of moths and other insects.  They have a specially adapted mouth to catch these critters.  It's difficult to see when the mouth is closed, but very obvious when open.

 
Potoos have a combination of gray, black, and brown plumage that allows them to blend in with tree bark.  They will roost on branches during the day, adopting a 'broken-branch' posture.  They also have adapted eyelids with slits in them that allow the birds to sense light changes and movement, even during the day.




Potoos are primarily solitary animals, though both members of a mating pair will take care of the egg and the hatchling.  Potoos don't actually make a nest when they reproduce.  Instead, they find a branch or location with a suitable crevice and lay a single egg inside the space.  It is incubated for 30-35 days.  The hatchling fledges around 50 days.  The parents guard the young for about half of this time, until they obtain their juvenile plumage.



Besides looking really cool, they also sound really cool.  When in Costa Rica, we had the chance to go on a night hike.  We were able to look for them using call recordings and spotlights.  We called for common potoos and great potoos.  Both species have very distinct calls.  The common potoo's call is rather calming where the great potoo's call is more creepy.  I really recommend you take a minute and check them out because they're really cool.  And don't forget, if you want a good laugh, Google search images for a common potoo.