Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) – Nightjar Family

A Pauraque or Nightjar is a uniquely patterned bird found from Southern Texas to South America. This fledgling sat virtually unnoticed on the ground due to its incredible camouflage.

If you live in an area that the Common Pauraque inhabits you know it as the “get the hell out of the road” bird. The Pauraque, pronounced Pour-A-K,  is consistently found sitting in the middle of the road just after dusk. You always see it from the side and the eye reflects a steady orange glow when your light connects with it. It can be unnerving to see that eye staring at you but not moving. Then as you come up on it it flies up and out of the road. Depending on your transportation method this action can cause quite a scare. When walking the bird allows you to almost step on it before it moves. Down here in snake country it feels like the pauraque is almost teasing you with fear. If you are in your car both you and your passenger are probably saying “get the hell out of the road bird” just before it jumps up.

During the day the pauraque sleeps and nests directly on the ground. See if you can spot a fledgling (juvenile) in this photo.

NIghtjar juvenile

I passed it by the first time as did my two ‘I will play with anything that moves’ dogs. As this pauraque grows its colors will blend more together and it will mix in with the leaf little almost undetectable until it moves.

This bird broke out of its calcium shell on the ground and will spend much of its life on there and on lower branches of trees. It has short legs that are rarely even see because he sits/perches so much.

pauraque egg
Here in Costa Rica this bird is known as “Don Pucuyo” or “Cabellero de la Noche” (“Gentleman of the Night”). They prefer open areas for feeding and forest scrub during the day.

nightjar perched

pauraque wings raised

This shows the underside of the pauraque as it starts to take flight. It also shows the tiny legs, which are rarely seen. The white throat patch does not continue around to the back of the head which also helps with identification.

pauraque front

pauraque eye open

It really wanted to be sleeping instead of modeling.

nightjar sleeping

2 comments on “Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) – Nightjar Family”

  1. Casey Reply

    Thanks for these daytime shots. When I run across them in the brush, they are in flight before I can really see them and of course at night they are also difficult to see well. I love the flying X pattern their wings make in the headlights though.

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