Pico Bonito, Honduras, March 2009

On our way to the lovely Lodge at Pico Bonito on the edge of Pico Bonito National Park in northern Honduras, Robert Gallardo, the organizer of the Mesoamerican Birding Festival and the post-festival familiarity trip that I am currently experiencing, let us all know that a Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis) had been roosting along the side of the entrance road.  Of course, this got us all excited as only birders can get when the largest potoo (or member of the order Caprimulgiforms, for that matter) is a possibility.  Rather than risk missing it, we decided to stop and see the amazing and bizarre bird as soon as possible, which was on the ride in to the lodge.

Once the coaster stopped, we were out in a flash, and Robert wisely decided to let us find the bird for ourselves.  This took me a bit (I was far from the fastest to get on the bird) but it was seriously worth finding for myself.  The excitement builds and when the potoo appears in the bins, well, wow!  It is hard to believe that such a bird even exists.  Anyway, here it is, in all its potoo glory…

At first the potoo didn’t do much, but eventually it scratched its head with its foot, which doesn’t sound very exciting I’m sure, but it set off a wave of excitement among us birders.  It was one of five lifers I picked up on the brief fifteen minute stop, but you’ll have to wait until later to hear about the rest.  In the meantime, enjoy another, rather heavily cropped shot, of the Great Potoo which shows the three, count ’em, three, notches in its eyelids which allow the potoo to see without opening its eyes and giving away its position.

How cool is this bird?  I must say, it is one of the coolest species I have ever seen!  Apparently, MIchael Douglas feels the same way, because when he visited the lodge he greatly appreciated seeing the same bird.  Who says birding can’t be glamorous?  And the glamorous Great Potoo is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to birding Honduras or Pico Bonito Lodge…

Update:  On the way out of Pico Bonito Lodge two days later the potoo was there again in better light and facing us so here is one more shot:

This post was originally published on 09 March 2009, but we hate to keep posts this good buried in the archives!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.