Mom Bird Does the Best Tree Impersonation You’ll Ever See!

Written by Sharon Parry
Published: November 22, 2023
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Potoos are incredible birds! They have some of the best camouflage capabilities in the natural world. The bird in this clip looks precisely like the lichen-covered branch it is sitting on. It is impossible to tell where the branch ends and the bird begins! This elusive species is rarely seen, so watching this clip is a rare privilege.

Watch the Incredible Clip Now

Amazing facts about the Potoo Bird

Several species of potoos, including the common potoo (Nyctibius griseus), are featured in this clip. They are 15 – 20 inches long and have a mottled plumage that blends perfectly with their background. Here are five fantastic potoo facts:

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  1. Unlike many birds, the males and females have the same plumage – you can’t tell them apart by looking at them.
  2. They have two or three slits in their eyelids so that they can see with their eyes closed! This also helps with camouflage.
  3. These birds can move their upper and lower eyelids independently to adjust their field of vision.
  4. Potoos eat giant insects, bats, and small birds and hunt from their perches.
  5. During prehistoric times, they lived all over the world.

How Do Potoos Normally Perfect Their Camouflage?

potoo looking at the camera

Potoos hold their body at the same angle as their perch.

©Martin Mecnarowski/

The technique we see in this clip is called masquerading. Potoos are outstanding mimics of branches and tree stumps. This is not just about color and texture! They are experts at choosing a perch that is a similar diameter to their own body. These fantastic birds even hold their bodies at the same angle as the perch. Perches can include agricultural fence posts!

Most of the time, they sit here with their eyes open and their beak horizontal. That all changes if they feel threatened! Once they detect unwanted company, they raise their beak vertically, close their eyelids, and stay very still!

Common Potoo Population: How Many Are Left in the World?

The common potoo is found in the forests of Central and South America, with further populations in Mexico and Hispaniola. Typically, you see them at the edges of woods and in tropical rainforests.

The IUCN has classed the common potoo as a species of most minor concern – with up to 5 million living in the wild. Nevertheless, the numbers are decreasing. The main threat that they face is habitat loss.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Fabio Maffei/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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