A great potoo with its mouth open.

Yes, the strange bird of epic memes is real. It is the great potoo, a nocturnal large-mouthed, large-eyed bird that emits the creepiest of moans.

The great potoo is a fascinating bird. It sits in camouflage for extended periods of time, which makes it difficult to spot. Young birds learn to sit quietly alongside their parents for hours. Even though their eyes are closed, they sense movement with their “magic eyes.” Despite the resemblance, they are not related to owls. They are closely aligned with frogmouths and nightjars. The seven species are located throughout Central America and Bolivia and Brazil.

Their large mouths scoop up insects and small birds. They’re called “monstrous nightbirds’; however, they’re kind of cool.

They appear in an Amazonian folktale.

In Ecuador, the Shuar people tell the story of a married man and wife who have a disagreement. The wife, Aóho, failed to make a satisfying dinner with the pumpkins. Her husband ran away in anger. He began to climb with Aóho following. She fell to the earth, scattering her pumpkins. Upon impact, she turned into a potoo. The husband turned into the moon. Every night when the moon appears in the sky, Aóho calls “aishirű, aishirű” (translated as “my husband, my husband”). Her calls can be heard throughout the night.

To listen to their moaning growl, visit: https://ebird.org/species/grepot1.