Common Potoo, Grey Potoo, Lesser Potoo or Poor-me-one

The Common Potoos (Nyctibius griseus) – also known as Grey Potoos, Lesser Potoos or Poor-me-ones – are nocturnal birds of prey that occur naturally in the tropical areas of Central and South America.

Distribution / Range

Their range stretches from Nicaragua south to northern Argentina and northern Uruguay.

They rarely occur below an elevation of 1,900 meters, and appear to avoid the driest regions in that range.

These birds are related to the nightjars and frogmouths, but lack the bristles around the mouth found in the true nightjars.


They measure about 33–38 cm in length.

Their plumage ranges in color from pale greyish to brown, and is finely patterned with black and buff. The color and patterns of their plumage is similar to that of a wood stump, providing these birds with a perfect camouflage in their woodsy environment.

Common Potoo, Grey Potoo, Lesser Potoo or Poor-me-one (Nyctibius griseus

Their large, orange eyes provides the stronger vision needed for night-hunting birds. These birds are most commonly spotted as the light reflects from their eyes as they perch on posts.

Diet / Feeding

They mostly hunt insects, including beetles, moths, termites, crickets, grasshoppers and fireflies. They pursue and capture them in flight, or may take prey off of plants or trees.

Nesting / Breeding

They lay their eggs directly in depressions in tree limps, typically several meters above the ground. The average clutch consists of 1 – 2 white, lilac-spotted eggs.

Songs / Vocalizations

Their songs are described as haunting melancholic BO-OU, BO-ou, bo-ou, bo-ou, bo-ou, bo-ou, bo-ou, bo-ou.

Photo of author

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