Common Poorwill: Small, stocky nightjar with pale brown mottled body and white collar separating black throat from narrowly barred underparts. Wings are rounded and tail is short and fan-shaped with outer tail feathers tipped white. Pink-brown legs and feet. Silent flight on quick shallow wing beats.
Range and Habitat
Common Poorwill: Breeds primarily in the western half of the U.S. south into central Mexico, and winters in the southern portion of breeding range, from the southwestern U.S. into central Mexico. Found in shrub steppe, rocky canyons, open woodlands, and broken forests; preferred nesting habitats include canyons, slopes, cliffs, mesas and stony hills, and mountains.
It has been discovered hibernating in the desert in California, surviving long cold spells in a torpid condition, without food and with its body temperature lowered almost to that of its surroundings. This adaptation is unique among birds.
Native Americans of the Hopi tribe were likely aware of the Poorwill's behavior—the Hopi word for the bird means "The Sleeping One."
The Common Poorwill is the smallest member of its family in North America. The genus name Phalaenoptilus is a compound of Greek phalaina, moth and ptilon, feather. The species name nuttallii honors English-born American ornithologist Thomas Nuttall.
A group of poor-wills are collectively known as an "addiction" of poor-wills.
The Common Poorwill is a nightjar, meaning it is nocturnal. This bird feeds at night on moths, beetles and grasshoppers. Its distribution spans through British Columbia, southeastern Alberta, the western United States, and western Mexico. Populations which are located further north will migrate in winter months to central and western Mexico. The natural habitat of this species is dry, open areas of grass, shrubs, or rocky desert slopes with very little vegetation. Nests are simply a shallow scrape in the ground, typically at the bottom of a hill for disguise near low vegetation. This bird is also noted for torpor, which is much like hibernation of other animals during winter months. The conservation status of the Common Poorwill is Least Concern.