potoo

/poh tooh"/, n., pl. potoos.
any of several nocturnal birds of the family Nyctibiidae, of Mexico and Central and South America, related to the goatsuckers.
[1840-50; orig. Jamaican E patoo; cf. Twi patú owl]

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▪ bird genus
      any of seven species of solitary, nocturnal birds of the American tropics. Its name imitates the wailing cry, “po-TOO,” made by some species.

      The potoos' complex patterns of gray, black, and brown plumage resemble tree bark. During the day, the birds sleep, vertically perched and virtually indistinguishable from the dead branches they roost on. They awaken at dusk, revealing huge eyes capable of spotting moths and other flying insects in the dark. Potoos also have wide and gaping mouths for catching prey during their quick, short, and silent flights.

      Although pairs of potoos may forage within a few dozen metres of one another, they are essentially solitary creatures. They are also highly restricted nesters. Instead of building a nest, they find a branch or stub with a suitable depression or crevice of just the right size to accommodate the single egg they lay. The egg is chalky white, marked with brown and gray, and is incubated by both parents for 30–35 days.

      Little is known about the natural history of most species because they are so difficult to observe. One researcher noted a young common potoo (N. griseus, sometimes N. jamaicensis) wandering over the boughs of the nest tree at about four weeks of age. The same nestling made its first trial flights at 47 days and finally left the nest when 50 days old. Other reports indicate the nestling period to be 40–45 days. The young are sheltered by the parents only during the first half of this period, by which time the young potoos have attained the juvenile plumage (white mottled with brown) and are already accomplished in assuming the “broken branch” posture of adults.

      Potoos' calls are characteristic sounds of the tropical forest at night. One species, the common potoo, also called the “poor-me-one,” sings a plaintive descending whistle that has been phoneticized as “poor, me, all, alone.” Another species, the great potoo (N. grandis), belts out a distinct bawl that can disturb people unaccustomed to the nocturnal life of the tropical forest.

      There are seven species of Nyctibius, and they constitute an independent family, Nyctibiidae. Potoos are related to the familiar whippoorwill of North America. All belong to the order Caprimulgiformes (caprimulgiform), a group of birds primarily active at dawn and dusk.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Potoo — Po*too , n. (Zo[ o]l.) A large South American goatsucker ({Nyctibius grandis}). [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Potoo — Potoos Northern Potoo Scientific classification Kingdom: Animalia …   Wikipedia

  • potoo — didlėliai statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Nyctibius angl. potoo vok. Schwalk, m rus. лесной козодой, m pranc. ibijau, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas – didlėliniai siauresnis terminas – andinis didlėlys siauresnis terminas – …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • potoo — [pə tu:] noun a nocturnal insectivorous bird resembling a large nightjar, found in tropical America. [Nyctibius griseus and related species.] Origin C19: from Jamaican Creole, from Akan, of imitative origin …   English new terms dictionary

  • potoo — po·too …   English syllables

  • potoo — pōˈtü noun ( s) Etymology: imitative : a large goatsucker (Nyctibius griseus) of So. America and the West Indies …   Useful english dictionary

  • Great Potoo —   …   Wikipedia

  • Northern Potoo — Conservation status Least Concern ( …   Wikipedia

  • Lesser Potoo — Taxobox name = Lesser Potoo status = LC status system = iucn3.1 image width = 220px image caption = Well camouflaged on a broken branch. regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves subclassis = Neornithes infraclassis = Neognathae unranked …   Wikipedia

  • Common Potoo — Well camouflaged on a broken branch Conservation status …   Wikipedia

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