Common poorwill

Common poorwill
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii

Photo by Don Doolittle (Debi Shearwater’s Journeys)

Common name:
common poorwill (en); noitibó-de-Nuttall (pt); engoulevent de Nuttall (fr); chotacabras pachacua (es); winternachtschwalbe (de)

Order Caprimulgidae
Family Caprimulgidae

This species is found in western North America, from southern British Columbia and southern Saskatchewan in Canada, across the western United States and into north-western Mexico as far south as San Luis Potosí. The more northern population migrate south to winter along the southern parts of their range.

These birds are 18-21 cm long and weigh 35-55 g.

The common poorwill is found in arid and semi-arid areas, particularly in dry scrublands, but also in dry grasslands, rocky areas and hot deserts. To a lesser extent they can also use open deciduous and coniferous forests. This species is present at altitudes of 500-1.000 m.

They hunt during the nigth taking insects on the wing, particularly beetles and moths. They also take cicadas, bugs, grasshoppers, locusts, flying ants and flies.

Common poorwills are monogamous and breed in March-September, varying among different parts of their range. The female lays 2 white to buff eggs, which are layed on the ground, without any type of nest structure, sometimes sheltered by a nearby rock, scrub or fallen tree. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 20-21 days. The chicks fledge 20-22 days after hatching. Each pair usually raises 2 broods per season.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and, although there are no available population estimates, the global population is believed to be large but may be somewhat fragmented. The common poorwill has undergone a small increase over the last 4 decades, possibly benefiting from human activities such as cattle grazing or logging that create open habitats.

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