Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)

Great Potoo

[order] Caprimulgiformes | [family] Nyctibiidae | [latin] Nyctibius grandis | [UK] Great Potoo | [FR] Grand Ibijau | [DE] Riesentagschlafer | [ES] Nictibio Grande | [IT] Nittibio maggiore | [NL] Vale Reuzennachtzwaluw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Nyctibius grandis LA s Mexico through Amazonia, se SA
Nyctibius grandis grandis Nicaraagua to Panama and through South America to c Bolivia and s Brazil
Nyctibius grandis guatemalensis s Mexico and Guatemala

Physical charateristics

It is pale greyish to brown, finely patterned with black and buff. It has large orange eyes. The overall appearance is pale and greyish. The underside is barred and vermiculated, including the buffy chest. The tail is barred with sharply defined black borders, while the head and back are mottled with grey and buff. Like most members of their order, the Great Potoo has plumage that is well-suited for camouflage.

Listen to the sound of Great Potoo

[audio: Potoo.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 45 cm size max.: 55 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 65 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 1  


It ranges from southern Mexico through northeastern Guatemala and through most of Central America down through South America as far as Bolivia and southeastern Brazil.


This potoo is found mostly in dense lowland forest, forest edges and clearings. It may also range into second-growth, open woodlands (including plantations) and sometimes seen around meadows, but they they always require trees.


Breeding can occur anytime from March to August, depending on the location of this bird’s range. The nest is a slight depression on a thick tree branch, at least 10 meter above ground. No nest material is addes, although, like other potoo’s, it might conceal its egg completely with soft dead material. A single white (slightly spotted) egg measuring about 5.2 x 3.8 cm, incubated by the male in daytime. The parents are never at the nest at the same time. Few details are known of the brooding behavior, but about a month elaspes before the offspring is seen alone at the nest. The fledging period must be at least 2 months. The chicks are entirely covered with white down. Great Potoo nests have been found in November in Suriname, in July in Brazil and a female with an almost completely developed egg in the oviduct was found in February in Guyana.

Feeding habits

This nocturnal predator is usually seen perched high above the ground while forgaging, sallying out when prey is spotted. After the pounce, the potoo almost alway returns to its previous perch. The prey consists mostly of large flying insects, especially large beetles, and bats. Normally, during the day it perches upright on a tree stump, and is ignored because it resembles part of the stump. The Great Potoo can be located at night by the reflection of light from its eyes as it sits on a post.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 8,500,000 km2. The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as ‘frequent’ in at least parts of its range (Stotz et al. 1996). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Great Potoo status Least Concern


Resident throughout range.

Distribution map

Great Potoo range map


Title The Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) as a probable resident in southern Mexico
Author(s): J. L. Rangel.Salazar, R. Tercero and P. L. Enriquez J. L.
Abstract: In 1987, the Great Potoo, Nyctibius grandis was re..[more]..
Source: ORNITOLOGIA NEOTROPICAL 2: 38-39, 1991

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