Common Pauraque: Medium nightjar with dark-streaked, mottled gray upperparts, white throat, black chin, rufous face, pale gray-brown underparts. Wings have brown and black bars, white band at base of primaries visible in flight. The gray tail is long, with dark edges and white patches.
Range and Habitat
Common Pauraque: Resident from extreme southern Texas to the American tropics; frequents semi-open scrub country with thickets and woodland clearings.
Central Americans know the “white-necked night-runner” as “Don Pucuyo” or “Cabellero de la Noche” (“Gentleman of the Night”)—names reflecting its association with love and presumed amorous influence over young women.
In hot weather, they often open their mouths wide and vibrate the throat area, a behavior known as gular-fluttering. Like panting, it’s a thermoregulation behavior that helps to cool the body by increasing the rate of evaporation through the mouth.
It has rictal bristles, which are modified feathers resembling stiff hairs alongside its mouth. Highly tactile and controlled by specialized muscles, they are thought to aid in night feeding, and protect the bird’s eyes from flailing insect legs and wings.
The genus and species names reflect the Common Pauraque’s appearance and behavior.
Nyctidromus means “night-runner,” in reference to the bird’s nocturnal, low-to-the-ground foraging. The species name, albicollis, describes the white, bib-like splotch on the pauraque’s throat.
The Common Pauraque is nocturnal, like all nightjars. This species breeds in the warmer climates of North America, from southern Texas to northern Argentina. Most of the populations of the Common Pauraque are residents, but some in the United States will migrate to Mexico in winter months. The preferred habitat of this species includes open wooded or grasslands, scrubs and crops. They also like to have dense foliage available for hiding space, and require access to rivers and wetlands for hunting. The Common Pauraque hunts at night for flying insects, and does not build a nest. The conservation rating for the Common Pauraque is Least Concern.