The world is rife with great and terrible creatures; sadly, for every puppy or capybara, there’s a Ted Cruz. But perhaps the most non-controversial, indubitably Good Animal is a nocturnal bird that looks like a Muppet on bath salts: the Potoo. For National Bird Day, Inverse asked an ornithologist to enlighten us about these acid-trip-nightmare-cartoon-looking birds.
“There are actually seven species of Potoo, they have their own family the Nyctibiidae,” Paul Sweet, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History, tells Inverse. “They are strictly Neotropical, meaning they live in the warmer parts of the New World from Mexico south to Argentina. They also occur in Jamaica and Hispaniola in the Caribbean.”
Potoos are masters of camouflage. Since their feathers are primarily various shades of brown, they’re able to easily blend in with trees. But when potoos open their gigantic peepers, they look like what you’d expect if a seriously drunk person put googly eyes on a log.
I mean, imagine this trying to blend in with a tree:
These overdrawn eyes — which, to be fair, look extremely silly — actually help potoos hunt at night.
“They are nocturnal and hunt for large flying insects like beetles and moths,” Sweet says. “[Potoos] perch on a stump and fly out to catch the insects in their huge mouths.”
Perhaps the most endearing thing about the potoo is its infamous call. While each species has its own unique song, generally, potoos sound like what you’d expect if a witch turned a megaphone into a bird.
The result is so painfully annoying yet pure you can’t help but feel proud of the potoo for trying.
Maybe potoos aren’t golden retrievers, but so what? They’re doing their goddamn best, despite looking like Tim Burton’s idea of a Porg. That’s all any of us can hope to do, as we try each day to rebrand our deeply rooted flaws as personality quirks.
To that, we salute you, potoo. Thank you for being you.
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