Octavio Salles Photography

Photo Tours in Brazil

A common visit by an uncommon visitor

Posted by campossallesfotografia on 22 de October de 2010

Every year is the same. With the summer approaching and its calm, warm nights, I start to hear a strange and somewhat gosthly whistled song echoying through the calm neighbourhood I live in. For me, this is one of the “songs of summer”, much like warblers are to many north-americans. The song comes from one of the weirdest birds of all, the Potoo.

http://www.xeno-canto.org/embed.php?XC=16810&simple=1
Potoo song recorded by Richard C. Hoyer in Ceará State, Brazil.

During the day this bird remains motionless perched at a branch, trying to resemble a part of the branch itself, or a broken branch. Sometimes they do it so well that it’s hard to actually see the bird, even though you might be looking straight at it! They are active only at night, when they fly from fixed perches to capture large moths, aided by their huge mouths and large eyes, which shows they have excellent eyesight.

This week I found another daytime perch of a Potoo, just a hundred meters from home. I shot some pics, but the background is quite busy, so no great pics here. The bird was there for the last 3 days, he might still be there, I’m gonna check it out later.

A Common Potoo doing that hello there... look.

The eyelids of these birds are quite interesting. During the day they keep their eyes shut most of the time to help with their camouflage against predators. However, even with their eyes shut, they are still seeying everything that is happening around them. Their eyelids have two small peek-through openings. You can see it clearly on the photo below:

Common Potoo and it's peek-through eyelids.

There are 5 known species of potoos in Brazil, however, I and several ornithologists think there might be more just waiting to be discovered in the dense rainforests. Recently in the Pantanal I photographed the Great Potoo, a really huge bird.

A Great Potoo in its daytime perch.

To photograph potoos at night you must use an off camera flash. Someone holding the flash for you from a different angle than the lens, otherwise the light will reflect on the potoo’s eyes directly into the sensor, making it just a bright blown-up area.

Common Potoo photographed at night at Fazenda Barranco Alto in the Pantanal with a local guide holding the flash to the right.

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2 Responses to “A common visit by an uncommon visitor”

  1. I’d never heard of this bird until i read this post. It’s a very interesting fella and i recommend anyone to click on the sound link. He has a most unusual song but i prefer it infinitely to hip-hop or rap! Exactly how big/tall is the Great Potoo? Thank you for all the education about wildlife in your neck of the woods (and what a neck of the woods it is!).

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