10 Facts Most Don't Know About The Great Potoo, "The Cartoon Bird"

Yes, the great potoo is an actual, genuine creature in the real world. No, the Universe isn't playing a joke. These wide-eyed, gape-mouthed clowns with one of the funniest bird names around are the things amazing memes are made from—and they've taken the Internet by storm. Once you get a few facts about these birds under your belt, you'll realize that these hilarious birds not only look awesome, they are awesome. Well, awesome and kinda weird.

Despite the goofy looks, the funny-looking great potoo bird is a creature that is actually kind of creepy. Between their ominous, heartbreaking cries, and the fact that they eat other birds, potoos are a force to be reckoned with. These nocturnal creatures love to hang out on their perches and stealthily hunt their prey. They are the strangest birds in the rainforest—not just because of their look, but because of their strange behaviors. Read on to discover more about the amazing great potoo!

  • Potoo Birds Are The Subject Of Some Spooky Folklore

    The potoo squawks at the moon with sorrowful and eerie cries, resulting in it becoming the subject of sad and spooky folklore. For example, the Shuar people of Ecuador believe the potoo's cry comes from a spirit that is in love with the moon. The legend goes that a man was angry with his wife, but when she tried to apologize, he fled toward the sky.

    She tried to follow, but fell back to earth and transformed into a bird. Her husband became the moon, and because she could never reach him again, the wife stays up all night crying over her lost love. 

  • Potoos Can See You Moving With Their Eyes Closed

    This strange bird can follow you with its eyes closed. Potoos have narrow openings along the bottom of their eyelids that let them sense movement. Even when their eyes are closed, they can track their prey. Or, even when they're sleeping, they can detect approaching shadows to escape from harm. 

  • Potoo Birds Have A Terrifying Squawk

    Potoo Birds Have A Terrifying Squawk
    Video: YouTube

    Potoos are noisy birds, and they're noisy when most of the world is trying to sleep. The common potoo is loudest at night. The song is described as "a mournful series of four to six descending flutelike tones" that bring about a feeling of melancholy. The bird also has a deep, guttural yell that frequently frightens rainforest hikers, and is considered to have one of the most unique bird calls in the world. 

  • Potoos Mostly Eat Bugs, But Sometimes They'll Scarf Down Smaller Birds

    Potoos don't regularly eat their own kind, but they are opportunist eaters. Though they prefer to feast on bugs, such as moths, beetles, and grasshoppers, potoos have been found with small birds in their stomaches. If the opportunity arises, they're going to eat. But only at night.

    These nocturnal creatures hunt long after the sun is gone by waiting patiently for prey. They're known to perch on high tree branches and capture their meals in "sallies," or quick attacks. 

  • Potoos Are Kind Of Lazy

    Potoos are largely sedentary. There are reports of the little guys being stowaways on ships, but for the most part, they just open their mouth, catch some moths, and sit on their stump. They are almost never seen during the day and perch in a single spot without straying too far. 

  • Potoos Aren't Players

    These weird birds aren't players. They don't mate with a ton of other potoo birds and are typically totally monogamous. It's sort of sweet. Once these wide-eyed, weird looking birds find love, it's forever.