Family Potoos (Nyctibiidae)

Least Concern

Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus)


French: Ibijau gris German: Urutau-Tagschläfer Spanish: Nictibio urutaú
Other common names: Grey Potoo

Caprimulgus griseus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Two recent studies#R#R found that this species, N. maculosus and N. leucopterus were closely related. Present species sometimes considered conspecific with N. jamaicensis; separation based on distinctly different voices. In Costa Rica, where both occur, there appear to be no constant morphological characters to distinguish the two vocal types. Costa Rican birds, originally all included in single race, costaricensis, now thought to include two species; as costaricensis currently recognized as a race of N. jamaicensis, individuals of present species in Costa Rica (and elsewhere in N) are referred to adjacent race panamensis, although they may represent an unnamed taxon. S populations recognized by some earlier authors as race cornutus#R, but now considered synonymous with nominate race#R, despite possible subtle differences in voice. Two subspecies currently accepted.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. g. panamensis Ridgway, 1912 – Nicaragua and SW Costa Rica S to N South America W of Andes, from NW Venezuela (Táchira) to W Ecuador and NW Peru (Piura).
  • N. g. griseus (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Trinidad and Tobago; E of Andes from Colombia, Venezuela and the Guianas to N Argentina, N Uruguay and S Brazil.
  • Descriptive notes

    33–38 cm; 145–202 g. Nearly identical to N. jamaicensis, especially in area of contact, although averages smaller throughout range. Colour variation... read more


    Song a haunting, drawn out, descending series: “feeoo, foo, foo, foo, ...” of roughly 4... read more


    Open woodland, especially near water; savannas and plantations with trees, cerrado, v... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on beetles (including large fireflies), moths, true bugs, mantids, flying ants and termites, cicadas, leafhoppers and grasshoppers.... read more


    Throughout range as a whole nesting has been noted during every month of the year, with no general seasonal or annual pattern; however, in... read more


    Apparently sedentary, although perhaps not maintaining permanent territories. Reported to be of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Fairly common to uncommon; biology and status not well known, despite being the most intensively studied potoo species. Less strictly tied to primary... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cohn-Haft, M. (2019). Common Potoo (Nyctibius griseus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 May 2019).