The Common Potoo King of Camouflage

It was 5 in the morning, and a lament resounded on the road in front of the house. Grandma said it was La Llorona, but I was convinced that this legend was not real. Could it be a bird? I put on my boots and went out with the binoculars to find who issued that sad call. With great curiosity and a little fear, I spent hours looking for him, because he didn’t sing again, I checked the treetops, the flowers, and the fences, but nothing.

The next day I left before dawn and waited until I heard Uuuuhhh uuuhhh uuh uh, guided by the sound I found him. It was perched on a dry branch and barely appreciated, but there it was, a grayish  bird with large yellow eyes, which was slowly closing, ready to sleep after a long night of hunting moths and beetles.

The Common Potoo or staking bird (Nyctibius griseus) protected by its excellent camouflage spends the day resting at low altitude, sometimes even on fence posts or dead trees or dry branches, in an upright position. It measures just under 40 cms. In Costa Rica, it can be found in the lowlands of both slopes, and it is especially abundant in the Río Térraba basin in the South Pacific region of Costa Rica.

The Common Potoo does not build a nest. The female deposits a single egg in a hole on a dry branch or pole and incubates it patiently until a pigeon hatches and emerges. It is very similar to the adult but covered with a soft and fluffy light gray down, which a few days can begin to distinguish between the feathers of the abdomen of his father, which it imitates perfectly adopting the same posture.

When we can find them and feel threatened by our presence or that of some predator, the Common Potoo assume their cryptic pose, pointing their beak towards the sky and smoothing their plumage, looking thinner and going even more unnoticed, as if it were just another branch. If you find a Common Potoo, let it rest, it is a harmless night bird that wants only to make itself invisible to its eyes.


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