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Great Potoo - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by Megan Perkins
Tambopata River, Peru, 5 November 2005
Nyctibius grandis


45–57 cm (17¾-22½ in)
Potoos are cryptically colored night-birds with upright posture, similar to the unrelated frogmouths of Australia and New Guinea. This species is the size of a large owl. It occurs in two color morphs, one grayer and the other washed more or less heavily with buffy brown. The Great Potoo is the largest potoo species, mottled in appearance with relatively large head and thick-looking neck. Its mottled pale grey to brown coloration matches closely that of the lichen-covered limbs on which it likes to perch. Sexes are similar. Juveniles slightly paler.

Similar Species

Common Potoo and Northern Potoo are smaller and darker. Great Potoo is only a few inches longer than the smaller species but appears to be more than twice their bulk.


Central and South America: found from extreme southern Mexico to northern Bolivia, Paraguay and south-eastern Brazil


This is a monotypic species[1].


Humid lowland forest



Poorly known. Nest is a crevice in a high branch of a large tree. The single egg is white with blotches of dark brown, grey, and light purple.


They hunt insects from exposed perches at night and roost hidden in the trees by day.


The primary vocalization is a tiger-heron-like or frog-like, heavy baaaao or fairly loud, gruff sound descending somewhat like a retching human. Mostly heard on moonlit nights. Also an eerie whoap while flying and at rest. The third is an owl-like oorrr.


Presumed sedentary.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Adams, K. (2011). Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.grepot1.01
  3. Cohn-Haft, M. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/55153 on 3 July 2019).

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