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Common Poorwill

Silhouette NightjarsNightjars
Common PoorwillPhalaenoptilus nuttallii
  • ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
  • FAMILY: Caprimulgidae

Basic Description

On desert nights in western North America, Common Poorwills chant their name into the darkness for hours on end. During the day, these gray-brown nightjars stay camouflaged against the ground and are extremely hard to see. The warm days and often very cold nights pose challenges for nocturnal insect-eaters such as poorwills, as insects are less active in the cold. As an adaptation, poorwills can go into a state of torpor when conditions are harsh and ​food is scarce, saving energy until conditions improve.

More ID Info
image of range map for Common Poorwill
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

Listen for male Common Poorwills singing their repeated poor-willip on warm nights in spring and summer. Following the song to the bird at night can be tricky, especially since its habitat features thorny plants and venomous reptiles. Try to find a bird calling near a quiet backroad, where a flashlight or headlights can illuminate the bird (keep your viewing brief to avoid disturbing it). A whistled imitation of the song sometimes brings a male in to investigate.

Other Names

  • Chotacabras Pachacua (Spanish)
  • Engoulevent de Nuttall (French)
  • Cool Facts