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Monday, July 18, 2016

Potoo - Adorable Bird of Death

There are a number of magnificent and sometimes strange bird species in the wild. Some come in magnificent colours and a charming, sweet voice, while others are more known for their odd attributes. Take for example the bird known as Potoo. Not only does their name sound strange, they also look strange, and even sound strange. This is a short article about this bird, what it looks like, and the local legends of this majestic bird.
As the moon rises in Central America and Northern South America, this rare bird flies over the wetlands and forests. Potoos belong to the family Nyctibiidae are related closely to frogmouths and nightjars, although they lack the bristles around their mouth are which separates them from true nightjars. There are several species of this bird found in Central and South America. Some of these birds do dwell in the southern most regions of south America, but rarely are they seen there.
These birds are known for their eerie and unusual appearance. They’re big, growing to about 21 to 58 cm in length. They resemble nightjars and frogmouths. They have large heads for their body size and long tail feathers and wings. Their large heads are dominated by their massive, brad bill and huge eyes that are bright yellow in color. In fact, the classic book “Handbook of the Birds of the World” describes the potoo as nothing more than a flying mouth with eyes. This actually makes them look adorable, yet creepy at the same time. Their bill, while broad and large, is short and barely projects past their face. It’s delicate and has a unique “tooth” which is used by the bird as a cutting edge to help with foraging. As mentioned, they lack the rictal bristles around the mouth as nightjars have. Their legs and feet are not that strong and are only used for perching.
CallThese birds are also called poor-me-ones, after local legends that say that their cry brings bad luck and even death to those who hear it. Their cry sound similar to someone groaning and moaning for help, which already sounds creepy enough to hear during the night. Potoos make their call when looking for mates and when defending themselves.
They’re masters of camouflage, blending into the branches of dead trees as naturally as they can. Potoos are known to stay completely still, with their heads facing up, mimicking a dead branch when a potential predator is close by. Their eyes are larger than those of nightjar, and since they’re nocturnal birds, it can reflect light. The potoo often keeps their eyes closed during the day so as not to attract predators and blow their cover. They have unusual slits on their lids, which allows them to sense any movement, even when they have their eyes closed.
HarmlessSince they’re more active at night, this is probably why legends about them tend to be more dark and dreary. However, as haunting and “scary” these animals might look and sound, they’re actually insectivores and are completely harmless. They hunt insects by waiting on a branch perching like a flycatcher or shrike. During the day, they stay on the branch or perched on a stump with their eyes half closed, not moving an inch. They even lay their eggs on the stump and the mother potoo would stay with the egg until it hatches and the chick matures. They only fly away when they feel that their stump is compromised or when their cover has been blown.
Monogamous Potoos are monogamous and both male and female share responsibility for incubating their egg and caring for the chick. They don’t construct nest, instead the female lays her single egg on a depression in the branch or on a stump. Potoo eggs are white with brown and purple spots. Males often incubate the egg during the day then the duties are shared at night. It takes the eggs about a month to hatch and they stay in the nest for about two months. Baby potoos have white feathers, which then turn brown as they age. Their white feathers still provide camouflage as it resembles clumps of fungi on the tree.
MobbingOther than relying on camouflage to keep them hidden and protected from predators, potoos are also known to exhibit mobbing behavior. This is a common behavior amongst birds wherein a group of birds would deliberately confront a predator. They would  crowd around the predator, approaching and retreating, and sometimes even chase and attack the predator. They would make loud noises repeatedly, which intimidates the predator and attract other potoo to join the mobbing.

Keeping them in captivity

Potoos, because of how well they blend into their surrounding, are hardly ever seen. They're definitely mysterious and there's little known about them. Although their population in the wild is of lease concern by conservationists, damage in their environment has cause these bird's population to deplete. You don't get to see these birds often in captivity. There are a few zoos and animal centers that keep them captive to understand their behavior. As for keeping them as pets, people want to keep them as one because their large eyes make them look cute, but do you really want a screeching potoo waking you up in the middle of the night?

Even though these birds are said to bring bad luck, they're actually not that bad. Share this article to fellow animal lovers and don't forget to leave your comments and suggestion.

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