Hide and seek is the name of the game in the animal kingdom, but if we learned anything from last year's "spot the snow leopard", it's that we humans are not very good at finding camouflaged beasts. Still, practice makes perfect:

This week, entomologist and wildlife photographer Andreas Kay shared a series of cryptic photos to Facebook – and at first glance, we thought we were looking at nothing more than trees and foliage.

Closer inspection, however, reveals a pair of decidedly weird-looking and exceptionally camouflaged birds: a mother potoo and her chick.

What the heck is a potoo? These big-eyed birds hail from tropical Central and South America, and they look like something straight out of Jim Henson's workshop. This particular pair are common potoos, and of the seven species in the genus (Nyctibius), they're – you guessed it – the most commonly seen. But that doesn't make them easy to spot.

Potoos are nocturnal, so they spend their days resting beneath the rainforest canopy. They perch on tree snags (dead or dying trees) like the one you see here, and their colour pattern helps them avoid detection. The combination of spots and lines is known as disruptive colouration, which breaks up an animal's outline, allowing it to disappear into the surroundings. 

But the potoo is more than just a master of disguise. The animals' big, yellow eyes have also earned them another nickname: the eternally surprised bird. Those oversized eyeballs are perfect for spotting tasty insects, which make up the bulk of the birds' diet.

In order to stay hidden, potoos must keep their peepers closed, and as you can see in Kay's photos, that's a tactic passed down from mother to chick.

Potoo Eyes 2016 07 08
The eternally surprised bird. Image: Reinaldo Aguilar, Flickr
Spot the snow leopard-2015-8-30


Top header image: nick p [with modifications], Flickr