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Nyctibiidae – Potoos

nyctibiidae
Great Potoo in Guyana: Photo by Luke Seitz

Welcome to our Nyctibiidae guide! Known as potoos, these nocturnal birds are recognized for their extraordinary camouflage and haunting calls. Found in tropical forests across Central and South America, potoos spend their days perching motionless on branches or tree stumps, blending seamlessly with their surroundings. At night, they become active hunters, catching insects in flight. Explore our guide to learn more about these elusive birds, their behaviors, and their unique adaptations.

Overview of Nyctibiidae

Potoos are nocturnal birds that spend their days perched openly, relying on their remarkably cryptic plumage for protection. Their feathering mimics furrowed bark and lichen, while their upturned profile and small bill resemble a broken branch stub. At night, they produce unique vocalizations, from the mournful whistles of the Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus) to the deep guttural roars of the Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis). Potoos respond readily to playback of their calls, often approaching closely and calling back repeatedly. Their reflective eyes make them easier to spot at night, enabling us to better document their distribution compared to other aspects of their biology.