Nicaragua’s Elusive Pocoyo

Camouflage is one of the ways in which birds can protect themselves from predators, and the Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) of Nicaragua has perfected the art of camouflage to the extent that even the most experience birding enthusiast may overlook it. It’s black, brown and grey coloring allows it to blend in with leaves and twigs on the ground where it spends most of the day, remaining almost motionless to avoid detection. Referred to locally as the Pocoyo, this elusive bird ventures out at night to search for food, where the reddish-orange reflection of its eyes may be picked up by car headlights along the country’s rural roads as it catches and feeds on insects.

The Pocoyo is found in tropical and subtropical areas of North, Central and South America and is considered to be of ‘least concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). But just because the Pocoyo has ‘common’ in its name, does not mean that it is unremarkable. Generally breeding between February and May each year, the Pocoyo lays her eggs on the ground in a pile of fallen leaves and twigs, where she will cover them with her body and broad rounded wings to protect them. When she needs to leave the nest to search for food, she may cover her eggs, which are light pink and freckled, with leaves until her return. When the chicks hatch, they soon learn to remain motionless and blend into their surroundings, particularly when there are predators around. Should a predator approach the nesting area, the mother bird will remain completely still until it becomes clear that the predator is not going to just pass by, then she’ll move in a flurry to draw the predator’s attention away from the eggs or chicks she is protecting. Although the Pocoyo can fly, it seldom does so, and may even choose to run away rather than fly when it is threatened, and while it may be difficult to spot, this attractive bird’s distinctive song is a familiar sound in Nicaragua.