By: Laura Heartwood, Travis Audubon Master Birder
The Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) is a well-camouflaged bird of the nightjar family and one that I would not have spotted without the help of another friendly birder. I was visiting Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, TX as part of my first trip to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. In an attempt to see alligators at Alligator Lake, the trail leading to the lake included a roost site for the pauraque. It took an extra few seconds for my eyes to adjust and make out the bird. It was far to close to see with a scope or binoculars. Despite the close proximity to the trail and human disturbance, this bird was not going to make any movement and was fully confident in its camouflage.
Roosting on the ground during the day and hunting for insects at night, it can be best identified by looking for the golden edges on the back and wing feathers. It prefers the forest floor with dense thickets and extensive leaf litter. At dusk, it is best found along woodland edges. It was a pleasure to see this species for the first time and made the trek in cold and wet weather well worth it. If you haven’t seen one yet, this bird is spotted on a regular basis at Estero Llano Grande State Park. Luckily I was able to return the bird spot favor with helpful information on where a set of missing rental car keys was located.