EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: ANiMAL MUNDi: Wailing Potoo Birds By Corinna of TheFrogBag

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

ANiMAL MUNDi: Wailing Potoo Birds By Corinna of TheFrogBag

by Corinna of TheFrogBag

Wailing "po-Too" Birds

In the annals of weird birds the potoo (genus Nyctibius) should get a chapter to itself. The common name refers to the call it makes (“po-TOO”) while foraging in the American tropical forests it calls home. 

Since potoos are nocturnal the wail is only heard at night, like that of the whippoorwill to which it is distantly related. Solitary and secretive, the bird itself is almost never seen. There is even a myth that says the call comes from a broken-hearted spirit who longs to return to its love, the moon. In fact, the potoo has earthly concerns like any other creature. Judging by its wide-eyed expression, it may have more of them than average. 

photo perunature.com 

During the day the potoo is almost never seen despite usually sleeping in plain sight. That’s because its cryptic coloration is so highly evolved for its environment that it is virtually invisible when sitting on a broken tree branch. The feathers are a complex mixture of brown, grey, and black, just like bark, and it perches with its head raised to mimic the jagged end of a snag. In addition, its eyelids have a peculiar “notch” in them, enabling it to see through squinted or even closed eyes. This allows it to ascertain threats during the day without revealing its huge, distinctive orbs and thereby giving itself away to daytime predators.

Potoos are not rare, but they are difficult to study. Little is known about their mating habits beyond the fact that they seem to remain mostly solitary their entire lives. This is true even before they are born, as potoos only lay one egg at a time without the benefit of a nest. Instead the young hatch in depressions in the branches or trunks of trees. Both parents care for the baby for about a month. By that time the fledgling is big enough to accomplish the “broken branch posture” itself and make short, silent, bug-hunting flights. 

photo planetparaguay.com

Odd as they are, potoos are just one more example of the wealth of life in the tropics. And while they are currently not threatened or endangered, they still rely on habitat that’s in constant peril. 

If you’d like to learn more about the tropics, the Rainforest Alliance (rainforest-alliance.org) is a good place to start. 

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