Common Potoo_Ecuador_01
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Potoos: The Forest Ghosts of Latin America

Few fowl teams are as mysterious and under-studied because the Potoos of Latin America. These champions of camouflage may be nearly unattainable to see until they’re in movement. Maybe this is the reason they’ve discovered their means into the legends and tales of indigenous individuals.

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Though the potoo’s beak is small and delicate, its mouth is big. They swallow their prey entire. A complete fowl (the White-collared Seedeater) has even been discovered within the abdomen of one particular person. NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Z TC-2x @ 1120mm, ISO 1000, 1/400, f/9.0

Potoos are small to medium-sized birds, with the smallest Rufous Potoo weighing about 50 grams and the most important Nice Potoo greater than ten occasions that. They’re subsequently fairly variable in dimension. Then again, they present a exceptional similarity in physique proportions and particularly in coloration.

If there have been a camouflage championship, the potoos would undoubtedly take first place amongst birds. The complicated zoological description of their look may very well be simplified to: they resemble a bit of dry department.

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NIKON D70 @ 300mm, 1/250, f/6.3

However that is likely to be too temporary of an outline, so let me point out a couple of attention-grabbing particulars. Their plumage does certainly resemble the dry, cracked bark of the tree on which they often perch. This consists of patches and constructions that mimic lichen. Actually, like sloths, they often let their tail feathers cowl with inexperienced lichen to raised mix in with their perches.

The potoo’s massive, bulging eyes with deep yellow irises are hanging. These might simply reveal their proprietor, which is why potoos have oddly formed eyelids. Once they shut, they don’t match tightly collectively, however go away a small, barely perceptible slit by way of which the birds can observe their environment.

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A perch like this has been utilized by the Frequent Potoo for a very long time. I put the camera on a tripod after sundown and arrange two flashes. Watching the entire scene with out a viewfinder allowed me to raised anticipate when the fowl would return to its perch. NIKON D850 + Nikon AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR @ 300mm, ISO 2000, 1/160, f/7.1

The potoo’s inconspicuous coloration is matched by their dedication to sitting nonetheless. In the event you come throughout a potoo through the day, you’re nearly sure to move it unnoticed. Even in case you stare at it, if somebody reveals it to you, it is going to take a second in your mind to course of that you simply’re taking a look at a fowl, not a tree department.

Potoos intentionally select locations for his or her every day roosts the place, as soon as perched, they seem like an optical extension of a damaged tree or palm trunk, or the stump of a dry department. You’d grasp a photograph backpack on them. And proper as much as the final second, potoos would tolerate it, too. Their confidence in their very own camouflage is so robust that they actually solely select flight as a final possibility.

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Be aware the greenish hue of the feathers on the tail and the way the fowl’s form completely follows the stump of the palm tree trunk. NIKON D500 + 500mm f/5.6 @ 500mm, ISO 560, 1/160, f/5.6

When a possible predator approaches the potoos, their relaxed place adjustments to an excellent camouflaged alert posture. Their head stiffens, their physique stretches barely, and their eyes shut much more. Now they’re actually indistinguishable from a damaged department.

This exceptional attribute is mirrored within the names given to them within the locations the place they stay. Bienparado (completely nonetheless) or Pajaro Estaca (picket stake fowl) in Mexico. In Argentina and Bolivia, they’re known as Urutau. This title is a mixture of the phrases guyra ‘fowl’ and tau ‘ghost’ from the Tupi Indian language.

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Photographing a household of potoos on the nest required balancing on an unstable canoe on the Cuyabeno River, Ecuador. The chick wanted to chill off, so it broke camouflage and opened its beak for a second. The guardian, nonetheless, watches cautiously by way of the slit between the eyelids. NIKON D300 + 100-300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/11.0

Their nests are additionally topic to strict camouflage guidelines. That’s, if a small pure melancholy in a department may be known as a nest. No materials lining the nest cavity, nor any droppings round it, betray the presence of a defenseless egg or chick. The potoo additionally cares for its chick in essentially the most secretive method. It takes a full month for the egg to hatch, and one other two months for the chick to depart the nest. That is one of the longest nesting durations amongst land birds.

As evening falls, the immobile stump adjustments. Now the potoo watches for passing bugs from its favourite evening perch. Giant eyes on a big head with a comparatively small mind register each motion. On its lengthy, broad wings, it makes quick swoops at its prey. Its flight resembles that of an enormous butterfly.

Cloud Forest at Night_Ecuador
The moon hides chastely behind a layer of clouds within the Ecuadorian cloud forest at an altitude of about 2,000 m. That is precisely the climate that potoos love for his or her songs. NIKON D850 + 500mm f/5.6 @ 500mm, ISO 100, 13 seconds, f/10.0

On moonlit nights – most frequently at full moon – potoos start to provide their unusual music. Maybe that’s the reason one of their Brazilian names is Mãe-da-lua (Mom of the Moon). To be trustworthy, I can’t say that their voice is at all times nice to the human ear. Flip off your lights, shut your eyes, and picture you’re strolling by way of the Amazon jungle at evening. Now play a recording of the Great Potoo. Somewhat spooky, isn’t it? No surprise its voice is taken into account an indication of impending loss of life.

In some locations in Brazil, individuals consider that the song of the White-winged Potoo belongs to Curupiro, the legendary forest spirit who protects animals from hunters.

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No, this isn’t a photograph of Mars. This shade spot is definitely a view of the Frequent Potoo’s retina by way of its open pupil. To lighten the scene, I used the flash set to its minimal energy. NIKON D850 + 500mm f/5.6 @ 500mm, ISO 1600, 1/200, f/7.1

The song of the Common Potoo sounds considerably mournful. Its distinctive voice has earned it the onomatopoeic title, Poor-me-one in Trinidad. In Peru, for a change, you would possibly hear the title Ayaymama, as a result of its music is reminiscent of a baby’s cry of “ai, ai, mama!”

In accordance with legend, a mom from a determined Indian tribe, suffering from a lethal infectious illness, took her youngster into the forest and deserted it. The poor and determined youngster has been wandering the forest ever since, calling for his mom.

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The dimension of the eyes and the sensitivity they supply in close to whole darkness are important to the potoos. Nonetheless, there’s not as a lot room left within the cranium for the mind. NIKON D850 + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 1600, 1/250, f/13.0

One other story from Bolivia tells one other unhappy story. In a sure tribe, there was a lady who fell in love with a warrior. However her father didn’t approve of the romance and determined to forestall it in any respect prices. He killed his daughter’s lover and disposed of the physique. When she discovered what had occurred, she threatened her father with telling the individuals of the tribe. The father grew to become livid and turned the poor daughter right into a fowl in order that nobody would know of his horrible deed. Nonetheless, the lady’s sad voice was preserved even in her fowl type. Subsequently, at evening, she at all times mourns the loss of life of her beloved with a tragic and melancholic music.

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When photographing this long-tailed potoo, I appreciated the flexibility of the Nikon 400mm f/2.8 lens to just accept a 2x teleconverter. Within the inside of the rainforest, gentle may be very scarce all through the day. NIKON Z 9 + NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S Z TC-2x @ 800mm, ISO 2000, 1/50, f/6.3

In accordance with the customs of some Amazonian Indians, the feathers of the potoos even have particular magical powers. They need to guarantee chastity, constancy, and restraint. That’s why moms sweep with the tail feathers of these birds beneath their daughters’ hammocks. Elsewhere, teenage women should sit on the pores and skin of a potoo for 3 days and hearken to the recommendation of their elders as they develop up.

Properly, my daughter is rising up, too. Perhaps I ought to borrow from these traditions and sweep beneath her mattress with some potoo feathers. Simply in case.

#Potoos #Forest #Ghosts #Latin #America

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