Great Potoo: Truths and Legends

At the moon rise, a rare bird flies over the Pantanal, bringing mystery, charm and creating many legends about the Great Potoo.

Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) on a pole fence.

By nightfall, when owls and bats come out searching for food, a rare and almost unknown animal hunts too. His name is Great Potoo, a very special bird hard to be seen. One reason for that is its unique camouflage colored in gray and brown details, almost identical to tree trunks.

During the day, the bird usually chooses a forked branch, raises its bill to the sky and in a position that looks very uncomfortable, remains static to sleep. The camouflage is so perfect that the Great Potoo disappears, resembling a broken branch.

Nature has achieved a such high degree of specialization in this birds that its eyelids have structures similar to curtains, forming small holes. This allows the Great Potoo to see everytinhg around it even with eyes closed.

The special camouflage of the Great Potto eyes.

At night, the bird is imponent, presenting a 3.3 feet wingspan in a silent flight. The Great Potoo is a nocturnal predator, often mistook as owls. Its beak has a huge opening with “lips” that go beyond eyes levels, allowing it eating insects in flight. Also feeds on small birds and bats. The bird belongs to the Nyctibiidae family and three species of this family occur in Brazil: Nyctibius grandis (Great Potoo), Nyctibius griseus (Common Potoo) and Nyctibius aethereus (Long-tailed Potoo).

However, it is not known if the Great Potoo is rare because there are few individuals in nature or because of its amazing camouflage. What is known is that the legends about this amazing bird are many. They say its song brings messages from the dead, giving good luck to friends and bad luck to enemies. Another legend says that an indian woman suffered for a impossible love and her pain was such intense that the girl was transformed in the Great Potoo, doomed to roost every night in a tree trunk, drifting through the night staring at the Moon and condemned to sing her love sadness. The bird has a chilling song, a loud echo in the night, like a scream of someone in great danger. Another legend says that the great potoo is an orphan boy that misses his parents and cries every night for his loss.

Some legends say that potoo’s feathers are talismans of love. Others say that sweeping the floor under a bride, using the bird’s feathers, ensures all the virtues of the world for the future wife. The legends say many myths, but the impression is that the Great Potoo is a magical bird.

Author: Helder (environmental manager)

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