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Common Pauraque Life History



The Common Pauraque occupies most open and semiopen habitats from Mexico to northern Argentina, strictly in the lowlands and foothills rather than higher mountains. This versatile species inhabits light woodlands and brushlands, coffee plantations, harvested agricultural fields, mangroves, forest edges, and many open, grassy, and brushy habitats locally called savanna, capoeira, campina, llanos, and pampas. In Texas, this species is most abundant in the native Tamaulipan brushland of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where mesquite, Texas ebony, live oak, and other native plants are scattered through mostly open grasslands. Although it avoids deep forest, the Common Pauraque quickly colonizes deforested areas such as roadways and agricultural patches within forest, and riparian edges with clearings. At night, they use roadways for hunting.

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Foraging Common Pauraques pursue night-flying insects such as beetles, moths, and flies, hunting from open ground and roadways, or sometimes from a stump, branch, or post. Remarkably, they capture many insects by chasing and leaping, though they also fly up short distances to capture insects a few feet off the ground. Flying up from the ground, their wingbeats look loose and floppy, like the erratic flight of a huge, lanky moth. They eat scarab beetles, carabid beetles, click beetles, tiger beetles, bark-gnawing beetles, long-horned beetles, snout beetles, fireflies, antlions, stinkbugs, bessbugs, locusts, twig borers, butterflies, flies, mantidflies, craneflies, grasshoppers, moths, bees, and wasps. They sometimes swallow seeds and tiny stones to help with digestion of hard prey.

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Nest Placement

GroundNests are set in brushy or lightly wooded areas and field edges, often beneath a bush.

Nest Description

Eggs are laid directly on flat ground or fallen leaves (no nest structure).

Nesting Facts

Egg Description:

Buffy or salmon-buff in color, marked with reddish brown, cinnamon, gray, and lavender. Conspicuous.

Condition at Hatching:Downy, can move around.
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Aerial ForagerMale Common Pauraques sing in darkness through much of the year, especially at dusk and before dawn when there is some moonlight, much less often on cold, rainy, or moonless nights. They sing, much as they forage, from the ground or a low perch such as a rock, stump, or post. Males sometimes leap upward when singing. Males and females often fly around together in the evening after dark. Like other nightjars, they are probably monogamous, but details of their courtship are unknown. Males participate in incubation to a much greater degree than other New World nightjars.Back to top


Low Concern

Common Pauraques are common and widespread in their mostly tropical range. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 20 million and rates the species a 7 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern. The Common Pauraque benefits from deforestation and is thus one of a handful of species whose populations have probably increased as a result of habitat destruction. Because pauraques frequent roads at night, vehicle strikes are relatively common, and in some places, pauraques are hunted for food.

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Latta, Steven C. and Christine A. Howell. (2015). Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.

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Learn more at Birds of the World