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Meet the Potoo chook: the residing meme


Credit: parkle Motion / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0.

They might seem like they’re straight out of The Muppet Show however have little question: this chook may be very a lot actual. A mixture between an owl and a nightjar, the potoos (household Nyctibiidae) are nocturnal birds that may be discovered perched in open forested habitats with scattered bushes in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

There are seven species of potoos, which might develop wherever from eight inches to only underneath two toes lengthy. They all usually have massive heads, quick necks, lengthy our bodies, and small, curved payments, resembling nightjars and the frogmouths of Australasia. But by far, their most defining characteristic is their large googly eyes, lending them an out-of-this-world derpy look.

The chook that likes to fake its a tree department

Northern Potoo at evening, San Blas River, La Tovara, Nayarit, Mexico. Credit: Alan Harper / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0.

In the daytime, potoos like to remain perched excessive up in bushes the place they mix in with the foliage because of their grey and brown plumage that gives excellent camouflage, resembling tree bark. They’re further arduous to identify attributable to their tendency to remain fully nonetheless with their heads stretched out vertically and their eyes closed, making them look much more like stumps. Potoos study the artwork of camouflage as child nestlings from their mother and father, whom they imitate.

Potoo chick imitating mother. Credit: Critter Facts.

But although their eyes are shut, they will nonetheless find prey or predator threats with a ‘third eye’ of kinds — small slits positioned on the higher eyelids that permit the birds to sense motion.

Can you see the potoo?
The Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis). Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

At evening, these wacky-looking birds change into rather more animated, flying from tree to tree looking out for tasty bugs, though they often hunt bats and even small birds. When an insect is detected under their perched place, the potoos dive in direction of their prey with their mouths open, swooping down and consuming their meal in a single go. That large mouth isn’t any accident, however fairly a wonderful adaptation to looking flying bugs. Meanwhile, the dorky eyes provide unparalleled evening imaginative and prescient.

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Each species of potoo has a singular name, starting from the nerve-wracking roar of the Great Potoo to the rather more melodic track of the Common Potoo.

Perhaps surprisingly, potoos are fairly outdated. Paleontologists have discovered potoo fossils from as far again as 50 million years ago and in locations like France and Germany, distant from the vary of recent potoos that benefit from the tropical climate of Central and South America. A 1996 study of the potoo mitochondrial DNA doesn’t assist the beforehand held assumption that they’re associated to oilbirds and located an excessive amount of divergence between completely different species of potoos, additional cementing the notion that this genus is kind of outdated.

Paraprefica major fossil. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Many potoo species appear to type monogamous pairs, mating for all times. Not a lot is thought about their courting and breeding behaviors, although. That’s primarily as a result of there’s little sexual dimorphism (distinction in type between people of various intercourse in the identical species), so ornithologists discover it difficult to establish mating pairs with the added problem of their elusive nature.

Credit:  julian londono / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0

What biologists appear pretty sure of is that, in contrast to many different birds, they by no means construct nests. What they do as a substitute is that they normally discover a gap or melancholy in a broken-off tree department that’s large and deep sufficient to carry their eggs. The feminine also meticulously cleans this spot, eradicating all poop from their chicks to make it arduous for predators to find them by odor.

Potoos are fairly freaking superior. Next time you’re on an Amazon journey, look ahead to them on a moonlit evening and hear for his or her eerie calls. You may simply get fortunate and spot one.

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