<< Previous Next >>

Great Potoo

Great Potoo
Photo Information
Copyright: Peter van Zoest (PeterZ) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2013-09-18
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D90, Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 APO, Digital RAW
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/640 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2014-09-09 7:32
Viewed: 2451
Points: 32
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
There are a few photos of Potoos, but not of this species.

The Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) is a bird, both the largest potoo species and the largest member of the order Caprimulgiformes (nightjars and allies). It occurs in tropical America.

Though related to the nightjars, like other potoos it lacks the bristles around the mouth found in the true nightjars (Caprimulgidae). The great potoo is larger than a crow at 48–60 cm tall and 360-650 grams. Wingspan in these bird is typically around 70 to 80.4 cm, though larger specimens can attain 100 cm. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 34.2 to 40 cm, the tail is 22 to 29.5 cm, the bill is 1.6 to 2.2 cm and the tarsus is 2.6 to 3.7 cm. This potoo's size is distinctive when it is seen. It is pale greyish to brown, finely patterned with black and buff. It has large orange eyes. The overall appearance is pale and grayish. The underside is barred and vermiculated, including the buffy chest. The tail is barred with sharply defined black borders, while the head and back are mottled with gray and buff. Like most members of their order, the Great Potoo has plumage that is well-suited for camouflage.
The song is described as deep, guttural, strangled cries like borrrrrr or oorrroo repeated after a consistent interval of 10 to 20 seconds. The most common call is a loud, startling bark, BWOW! or GWOK! This call is usually made while the bird is disturbed.

It ranges from southern Mexico through northeastern Guatemala and through most of Central America down through South America as far as Bolivia and southeastern Brazil.

The Great Potoo is found mostly in dense lowland forest, forest edges and clearings. It may also range into foothills (up to about 1,500 m elevation), second-growth, open woodlands (including plantations) and is sometimes seen around meadows, but they always require trees-etc., for their camouflaged imitative perch.

This nocturnal predator is usually seen perched high above the ground while forgaging, sallying out when prey is spotted. After the pounce, the potoo almost always returns to its previous perch. The prey consists mostly of large flying insects, especially large beetles, katydids and Orthoptera (including crickets and grasshoppers). Bats are also taken. This species uses the sit and wait method where it will sit on an exposed perch waiting for a prey item to fly by then will dart out and return to the branch with it. Very often birds of this species will use the same hunting perch nightly. Normally, during the day it perches upright on a tree stump, and is overlooked because it resembles part of the stump; this is a camouflage, not just by coloration, but a camouflage by the setting. The great potoo can be located at night by the reflection of light from its eyes as it sits vertical on a post, roost, or angled-tree trunk.

Breeding has been recorded as typically February to August, but depending on the portion of this bird's range breeding birds can be met with almost year-round. The nest is a slight depression on a thick tree branch, at least 10 m above ground, with a single white (slightly spotted) egg measuring about 5.2 x 3.8 cm. Few details are known of the brooding behavior, but about a month elapses before the offspring is seen alone at the nest. A chick of a few days old weighed 220 g. After about 5 weeks the nestling is a two-thirds version of the adult, but with a lighter build, paler plumage, shorter tail, and smaller bill with less rectal bristles. The fledging period must be at least 2 months. After this time span, the offspring do not return to the nest site.
Although the adult potoo likely has few natural predators, predation of eggs, nestlings and fledging is apparently not uncommon. Adults stay near the nest throughout the day and rely upon camouflage to protect their offspring. Predators of Great Potoo nests have included monkeys and falcons.

The Great Potoo is normally described as "uncommon", but occurs frequently in areas of less disturbed forests and is often found to be rare along the edges of its range. The clearing of forest is the only conservation threat known to this bird. Due to its large range, it is considered a species of least concern by the IUCN.

Source: Wikipedia

oscarromulus, Hotelcalifornia, bobair, anel, CeltickRanger, Chiza, tuslaw has marked this note useful
Only registered TrekNature members may rate photo notes.
Add Critique [Critiquing Guidelines] 
Only registered TrekNature members may write critiques.
You must be logged in to start a discussion.

Critiques [Translate]

Camouflage !!! Boy oh! boy!!!
Nocturnal but you got it!!!
Great notes too.
Regards from Mario.

Hello Peter- In first glance I thought why have you described your picture as "Great Photo"! Later I saw it's "Great Potoo"- a nocturnal bird! I haven't heard this name before. So,thanks a lot for showing a New Species to me, as well as to TN. Details and colour(I saw this bird just now in Google) look natural and very well presentation. Again thanks for sharing. Regards- Srikumar

Hallo Peter
Super mooie en scherpe opname met super zonlicht wat deze vogel ook lekker vindt denk ik
Mooie compositie zo op de tak
prachtige camouflage kleuren
ik heb ze ook gezien in Costa Rica
zal wel een ander lid van de Fam. zijn
Zat tussen het gras als het donker was

gr lou

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2014-09-09 16:06]

Hi Peter,it seems a decorate lizard from this point of view...ehehe...a great capture talking about the detail and colors,not lucky with the head position,but a first time is always a great satisfaction! Have a nice day and thanks,Luciano

Hi Peter,I almost didn't see the bird from the thumbnail as it blends very well with the colour and texture of the tree it is on.The photo is sharp and well coloured it is lucky that the bird looks like it resting being day time and it being a nocturnal species,you could of easily missed it.
Thank you for sharing it with us.


Hello Peter,
Congratulations on displaying a new bird for TN here and with an excellent image which, it seems by the very good camouflage and its nocturnal lifestyle, may not be all too easy to come by (which probably is an understatement). Interesting accompanying note too. Thank you and best wishes.

perfect camouflage, greetings Ori

  • Great 
  • nanreh Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 136 W: 12 N: 258] (2191)
  • [2014-09-10 16:49]

A few days ago I saw a documentary on National Geographic; where a Brazilian documentary showed us this rare bird and its marvelous system of camouflage. Your photography, Peter, is a beautiful finishing touch to complete my knowledge of this Nyctibius grandis. Congratulations for the great work you've done to deal with the exposure, at a time when sunlight is undoubtedly a big head ache for a nature photographer. Great, great work, my friend.

Hernán Bortondello

Greta camouflage here and great time! Impressive details MF Peter.


What an AMAZING image of this WONDERFUL bird doing great mimic of tree branch like a night jar in India.

  • Great 
  • anel Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 3053 W: 3 N: 8715] (40574)
  • [2014-09-12 6:30]

Hello Peter,
This is really an amazing bird and you have taken it in a very unconventional manner for these species. Not camouflaged but in contrast to the blue sky.
Most interesting!

Hello Peter

Once again congratulations for this new bird on TN,
and WOW ! what a great camouflage with its environment,
and also WOW ! to that expressive pose,
the light is very beautiful, TFS


  • Great 
  • Chiza Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 133 W: 0 N: 474] (5351)
  • [2014-09-12 19:22]

Hola Peter una especie espectacular al igual que la foto, maravillosa composición en su entorno natural y una percha de lo mejor...saludos.

  • Great 
  • tuslaw Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2754 W: 282 N: 4931] (19883)
  • [2014-09-13 18:39]

Hello Peter,
Congratulations on another new species for TN. I have to admit from your thumbnail image I originally thought this was some type of lizard sunning itself on a limb. What a surprise to find out it was actually a bird when I brought it up on my screen.
Super sharp detail and wonderful example of it's camouflage ability. It actually reminds me somewhat of the Common Nighthawks we have here in Ohio. What a unique pose it uses when resting on a tree. Great job!!

  • Great 
  • iti Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 577 W: 0 N: 650] (7939)
  • [2014-09-15 10:21]

Hi Peter,
Really very interesting bird. Excellent sharpness details
and marvellous shot from close range.
Regards Jiri.

Hello Peter,
Very interesting bird, he has an uncanny ability to become part of the background.

Calibration Check