Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Gray feathers with buffy edges and tips help the pauraque blend in to its habitat.

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.

Cryptic coloration makes it hard to determine where the edge of the bird meets the ground.

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.


On November 11, 2008 at 10:24 PM Mary said...

I guess most would trip over a Pauraque at night but with your excellent photo, I'd recognize the eye. Good birders there!

On November 11, 2008 at 10:44 PM Anonymous said...

Great pics Bill. I might even have to save them to make sure I have a record of my lifer. Stupid camera battery...

If anyone is in the neighborhood of Estero Llano Grande, make sure you ask one of the naturalists to show you this bird. As great as these pics are, I don't think anything could capture the impact that it has. It may not look like it in field guides, but this is one stunning bird.

On November 12, 2008 at 7:39 AM 1800blogger said...

Could you please contact ken@1800blogger.com

On November 12, 2008 at 9:31 AM Bill of the Birds said...

Hey Grant:
If you want copies, send me your e-mail to editor AT birdwatchersdigest.com and I'll zap them off to you.