OK Blogsters. Here's the answer to the mystery photo from yesterday, which several of you have already sussed out.
It's a pauraque (paw-RAH-kee; sometimes called common pauraque, often mis-spelled paraque or parauque). This member of the caprimulgid family (nighthawks, whippoorwill, poorwill, etc) makes it across the border from Mexico only in southernmost Texas. Like its relatives in the Caprimulgidae it catches insect at night by flying around low to the ground. Its large eyes provide the necessary vision and the stiff rictal bristles surround its mouth help to funnel moths and other prey into its huge gape. For more about the life history of this species, along with photographs of this same individual bird, see the new Cornell Lab blog, Round Robin, written by Hugh Powell.
During the day the pauraque roosts on the ground, blending in perfectly with the duff-browns and grays of the scrub forest floor. Our bird was spotted by a sharp-eyed birder and dozens of eager bird watchers followed the directions out the Alligator Pond trail at Estero Llano Grande State Park to see it. I saw it twice—once on Friday and once on Sunday. Both times the pauraque was right where it was supposed to be. Both times, even though we knew right where it was, it was still difficult to pick out its shape—especially when its eyes were closed.
This was my best look ever at a pauraque. My other looks have been of birds flying up off the roadside at night, or spooked into flying, like a giant tan moth, from the forest floor during the day, only to disappear in the thick brushy woods.
How did the pauraque get its name? It's named for a very loose interpretation of the bird's call, which is usually rendered in field guides as purr-WHEE-rrr. Navigate your ears here to hear a pauraque not say its name.