Common Paraque

The Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis), or just Pauraque, is a nightjar species, the only bird in the genus Nyctidromus. It breeds in the warmer parts of the New World from southern Texas to northern Argentina. Most populations are resident, although the U.S. breeders (N. a. merrilli) may winter in eastern Mexico. It is found in open woodland habitats, but also scrub and cultivation.

This medium-sized (8.5 to 11 inch) nightjar has two color morphs, the plumage being variegated grayish-brown or rufous-brown. It is long-tailed and has broad rounded wings. The buff ‘eye ring’ and ‘facial stripe’ contrast with the reddish sides of the face. The adult male Pauraque has a white band near the wing tips, and the outer tail feathers are mainly white. The female’s wing band is narrower and the white in the outer tail is more restricted. There are seven races of Pauraque, differing in size and grayness.

The male Pauraque’s song is very variable, but includes a whistled weeeow wheeooo, soft puk puk and a whip given in the courtship flight as he flutters around the female. Her call is a rapid succession of whip sounds.

This species has long legs with bare tarsi, and is more terrestrial than most nightjars. If disturbed, it will sometimes run rather than fly, and frequently rests on roads and tracks. In general it prefers mixed habitat which offers densely vegetated hiding places – ideally forest – for the day, as well as open landscape to hunt at night. The Pauraque is nocturnal, like other nightjars, and starts to fly at dusk. Like its relatives, it feeds on insects caught in flight, usually by fly-catching from a low perch, but also by foraging over open ground.

Two elongated and elliptical pinkish eggs are laid and placed upon the bare ground or leaf litter. Being an adaptable species that will tolerate human disturbance of habitat well, the Pauraque has actually benefited from limited deforestation. Logging creates areas of low and secondary growth, in which the birds are able to hunt more efficiently. However, it will of course abandon heavily built-up or clear-cut locales, and in addition it is very vulnerable to predation by feral dogs and cats, disappearing from areas where these pests are abundant.

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