- ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
- FAMILY: Caprimulgidae
The Common Pauraque’s subtle brown, black, and gray plumage provides such excellent camouflage that it might as well be invisible in its daytime sleeping spots on open ground. From dusk till dawn, the male’s songs are anything but quiet, ranging from rising whistles to grunts that sound like frogs. It is skilled at catching flying insects and like all nightjars has a gaping wide mouth behind a tiny bill. Widespread in the Neotropics, the Common Pauraque ventures into the U.S. just at the southernmost tip of Texas.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Common Pauraques at dusk or early at night, when they sit in shortgrass fields and on rural roads to hunt for insects. Listen for the male’s loud whistled song at dusk in fair weather. During the day they roost under brushy vegetation, where they blend incredibly well with dead leaves. They often return to the same roosting spot day after day, and in some parks or refuges, rangers can help direct you to a promising location.
- Chotacabras Pauraque (Spanish)
- Engoulevent pauraqué (French)
- Cool Facts
- As is true of nightjars around the world, the Common Pauraque is the subject of many folk beliefs, among them that the male’s song identifies the presence of “Don Pucuyo,” a roving, romantic spirit.
- The Common Pauraque lays two attractive eggs, buffy or salmon-buff in color, marked with reddish brown, cinnamon, gray, and lavender—quite distinct from the eggs of any other nightjar species.
- In most species of nightjar, the female does most of the incubation, but male Common Pauraques share incubation duties with their mates.
- The nightjars, including the Common Pauraque, have a reflective structure in the eye called a tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back to the retina (similar to cats). This helps them see flying insects in the dark. This structure also reflects light outward, producing “eyeshine” when a flashlight or car headlights shine on their eyes.
- Although the legs of a Common Pauraque are so small as to be nearly impossible to see under normal conditions, the pauraque can leap half a meter off the ground to catch low-flying insects, and sometimes runs on the ground during foraging.