7 cool things about the great potoo

Ever seen a great potoo? He is one of those fascinating birds in the wild. Let’s find out what makes him so cool.

1. Imitating primates

Imagine walking in the unknown forests of South America at night and you hear an eerie sound – something that sounds like a primate shouting: “Mom!” Or a ‘woo’ sound, almost like when a ghost ‘floats by’ in a horror movie scene. Don’t be scared – it’s only the great potoo.


2. At night

This bird wakes up at dusk and is most active at night. He tends to sit on the same perch every night, waiting for prey to pass by. He will then dart from his position, grab his prey and return to the same spot. The great potoo feeds on a variety of insects, small bats and even other birds.


3. Huge eyes

The great potoo has huge black eyes with light brownish-yellowish irises, which make him look scary at night. The size of his eyes helps him to see his prey in the dark. With those big eyes and the creepy sounds he makes, it’s no wonder that his nickname is ‘ghost bird’.


4. Can you spot him?

The great potoo is a master of camouflage. Instead of being shaped like an average bird, his feathers look exactly like the branches of the trees surrounding him. What makes his camouflage even more effective is the way he sits incredibly still in the tree, head pointed upward, looking like just another branch. You wouldn’t even know he was there.


5. Big mouth

The inside of the great potoo’s mouth is bright pink and he keeps it wide open and very still while he waits for prey to pass by. He then darts out, uses his sharp beak to grab the prey and then swallows it whole.


6. Lazy nests

The great potoo is extremely lazy when it comes to nest building. So lazy that he doesn’t actually build a nest from scratch like most other birds. This bird merely looks for a fork or a hole in a tree that is big enough to hold one egg. Once the egg is laid, both parents take turns in sitting on it to hatch it, which can take anything from one to two months. The parents then take care of their young for one more month and, after that, the babies have to take care of themselves.


7. Natural home

The great potoo can be found in humid to semi-humid forests in Central America and the northern part of South America, in countries like southern Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil and Bolivia. There are an estimated 500,000 to five million great potoos in the wild, but these numbers are declining.


Image: By Hector Bottai – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=111574157


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