Potoo Bird — Facts, Photos, And Meme

The Potoo bird, also known as the Great Potoo or the common potoo, isn’t actually a single species, but a group of related species of near-passerine birds in the family Nyctibiidae and the genus Nyctibius. They are also sometimes referred to as “Poor-me-ones” — on account of their haunting calls.

While all of that is quite possibly interesting to you, there’s a good chance that you’re here because of the memes going around depicting a rather perturbed looking potoo along with a variety of humorous captions. So, to answer your question, yes that is indeed a real potoo, and it is in fact a real animal. They do also seem to quite commonly make the strange and sort of humorous faces seen in the images used in the memes. Now back to the facts (some of the funnier memes are posted at the bottom).


The potoos are currently found throughout Central and South America, with the greatest genetic diversity occurring in the Amazon Basin. They used to have a considerably greater range in prehistoric times though, apparently — fossil remains dating to the Eocene have been found in France and Germany.

The birds are primarily nocturnal insectivores that prefer to hunt from a perch, similar to a shrike or a flycatcher. During the bright hours of the day they often perch upright on tree stumps — being well-camouflaged for such an environment. They lay a single spotted egg directly on the top of a stump that they call home.

Potoo camouflage

Potoos typically range in size from 21 to 58 cm, and possess heads that are relatively large as compared to their bodies. The eyes are quite large (I’m sure that you’ve noticed), and possess “unusual slits in the lids, which allow them to sense movement even when their eyes are closed.”

They are highly sedentary, but there are reports of some species repeatedly trying to stowaway on ships. Their favored prey appear to be beetles, moths, grasshoppers and termites — one Northern Potoo, though, when it was opened up, was found to have a small bird in its stomach. So I suppose that they’ll occasionally eat larger animals when the opportunity is there.

Great potoo

Potoos are monogamous, and share parenting responsibilities, both parents incubate the egg and raise the chick. “One parent, often the male, incubates the egg during the day, then the duties are shared during the night. Changeovers to relieve incubating parents and feed chicks are infrequent to minimize attention to the nest, as potoos are entirely reliant on camouflage to protect themselves and their nesting site from predators. The chick hatches about one month after laying and the nestling phase is two months, a considerable length of time for a landbird.”

Potoo meme

Potoo meme

Potoo meme

Image Credit: Potoo via Wikimedia Commons

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