Family Potoos (Nyctibiidae)

Least Concern

Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis)


French: Grand Ibijau German: Riesentagschläfer Spanish: Nictibio grande

Caprimulgus grandis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



MtDNA study revealed weak support for relationship between present species and N. aethereus#R. Validity of subspecies guatemalensis not universally accepted#R, and supposed differences may represent merely extremes in broad geographical size trends and individual plumage variation. No taxonomically clear variation in most of extensive range, despite great genetic divergence on opposite sides of Andes and possible population disjunction between Amazonia and Atlantic Forest; may contain undescribed “cryptic” taxa. Two subspecies tentatively recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • N. g. guatemalensis Land & Schultz, 1963 – extreme S Mexico, Guatemala, and possibly Honduras.
  • N. g. grandis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – Nicaragua S to N South America, where mostly E of Andes throughout Amazonia to N Paraguay, and in SE Brazil; may occur locally between Amazonia and Atlantic Forest regions.
  • Descriptive notes

    45–57 cm; 360–620 g. Largest and bulkiest potoo, looking relatively big-headed and owl-like; much larger, larger-headed and paler than N. jamaicensis and... read more


    Vocalizations may be confused with those of N. jamaicensis, although this potential source... read more


    Canopy of lowland forested habitats, including tropical rainforest (both terra firme and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on beetles (Coleoptera, including Cerambycidae, Hydrophiidae, Passalidae and Lamellicornia), large katydids and grasshoppers (... read more


    Presumed monogamous. Nesting noted at various times of year with no described pattern of seasonality, e.g. young in Apr in Costa Rica; nest... read more


    Presumed sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon in closed-canopy forest; common or more easily detected in naturally semi-open habitat, such as in Venezuelan llanos. Frequently... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cohn-Haft, M. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Great Potoo (Nyctibius grandis). 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 30 March 2020).