The common potoo is a freaky looking bird from Central and South America. To me it looks a bit like the bird version of the aye-aye – strange, big-eyed and not that adorable. But cute animals are often the most boring, or at least the most well documented (though I do and will continue to blog about certain adorable animals – I just can’t help it). So instead of a sweet little fluffy owl or something, we get to look at the potoo. Here’s a picture of it, in all its glory:
Common potoos are nocturnal birds, and although it’s often hard to find animals at night, potoos can be found one of two ways. First, those giant eyes of theirs reflect a lot of light, making them glow brightly if any light hits them. Which doesn’t really help the bird’s looks, as it makes the poor animals look like some kind of demonic creature. Second, the common potoo has an extremely distinctive call. It sounds a little like someone is laughing while playing a flute or something. Here’s a link to a clip:
So yes, you can find the potoo at night. Wanna try and find it in daylight? Good luck. This bird is one of the best camouflagers I’ve ever seen (not to say that I’ve seen a whole lot, but still, I think the potoos do a bang-up job). That mottled grey-brown pattern potoos have serves as an excellent disguise among tree branches, but that isn’t enough for these birds. Nope, these guys are only satisfied when they are pretending to be a branch themselves. They sit on broken branches or tree stumps and thrust their beaks in the air, sitting stock still and becoming part of the tree. Don’t believe me? Here’s a picture.
Pretty good right? The potoos are so dedicated that they can sit like that for hours at a time, not moving unless a large animal comes too close. Then it chases the intruder away and returns to sitting, probably contemplating life and the mysteries of the universe. The potoos even squint their eyes, so as to not expose those brightly coloured eyes. At night, the potoo again perches on stumps, but it uses them to hunt, swooping in short flights to gobble up insects. The potoo lays one egg, and they once again use trees for this purpose, laying the egg in depressions in tree branches or in stumps.
There are many different strategies animals use to avoid predators. But I am of the opinion that camouflage is the coolest way to do it. Let’s all celebrate the common potoo, a master of disguise!
Cover image By Sidnei Siqueira – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0