Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Common Pauraque

Nyctidromus albicollis

After sunset, in the brushy woods of southern Texas, a hoarse wheezing whistle is heard from here and there in the undergrowth. As dusk settles in, a silhouetted bird flutters and glides silently through the clearings. This is the Pauraque, a common tropical nightjar. If disturbed by day at its resting place in dense thickets, it flutters away on a zigzag course, showing white flashes in the wings and tail.
Conservation status Has declined where habitat has been cleared, but still locally common in southern Texas.
Family Nightjars
Habitat Woodlands, brush, river thickets. In Texas, most common in native woodland, dense thickets, and areas of tall brush, foraging along edges and over adjacent open fields. In American tropics, widespread in semi-open habitats, mainly in lowlands.
After sunset, in the brushy woods of southern Texas, a hoarse wheezing whistle is heard from here and there in the undergrowth. As dusk settles in, a silhouetted bird flutters and glides silently through the clearings. This is the Pauraque, a common tropical nightjar. If disturbed by day at its resting place in dense thickets, it flutters away on a zigzag course, showing white flashes in the wings and tail.
Photo Gallery
  • adult (gray morph) more common in US
  • adult (rufous morph)
  • juvenile
Feeding Behavior

Seems to forage most actively at dusk and dawn, also on moonlit nights. Forages by perching on branch or on ground and flying out to catch passing insects; also sometimes forages in continuous flight along edges of woods. May sometimes pick up insects from the ground; has longer legs than most nightjars (still quite short) and can run with surprising speed for short distances.


Eggs

2. Buff to pale pink, finely marked with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents. Young: Cared for and fed by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitation. If site is disturbed, adult may call to young with low, throaty calls; young respond by hopping along the ground toward parent.


Young

Cared for and fed by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitation. If site is disturbed, adult may call to young with low, throaty calls; young respond by hopping along the ground toward parent.

Diet

Insects. Not known in detail, but feeds mostly on night-flying insects, especially beetles, also moths and probably many others.


Nesting

Males call at night, probably both to defend territory and to attract a mate. Courtship behavior may involve birds facing each other on the ground, bobbing their heads and fluttering. Nest site is on ground, usually in fairly open woods, often placed at the base of a shrub. No nest built, eggs laid on dead leaves lying on ground.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Permanent resident, but less conspicuous in winter.

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Migration

Permanent resident, but less conspicuous in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A burry pur-wheeer, slurred downward and uttered at night.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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