Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sighting (and Photographing) the Common Pauraque

Some days are a bit harder for me than others.  So I go birding.  I don’t plan an explanation of either statement.  I’d soon bore.
But I can easily share one reason that I watch birds: as far as they are concerned, I’m not a part of their world.  (Unless, of course, I do something stupid that forces them to flee my intrusion.)
Seems it would be arrogant of me to ponder their understanding of hue-mawn placement within Mother Nature’s living room.  So I don’t; and I kind of like that.  When watching birds live their lives, I don’t need to figure out my place in this world.  They don’t expect me to ponder my purpose or my goals; they are apathetic to my mistakes and my failures.  The birds just really don’t care.
So I go birding.  And I hope for certain species in specific locales.  Of course my allowance of hope rarely comes, regarding anything, unless something close to a 90% certainty is the likely outcome.  Less than 90% “likely” wanes hope for those of us from the school of hard knocks.  And what does this definition of hope mean in terms of bird sightings?  Well, I know better than to hope for a close encounter with a great number of “specialty” species found in North America, not to mention those wondrous Aves that never request passports to the U.S. 

Many Aves are truly beyond my knothole’s reach—due in part to my travel constraints, and in part to their whimsical behavior in extreme habitats.  I’ve longed to see rare warblers known to occasion remote locales in southeast Arizona.  But then, after researching the terrain that must be crossed to potentially sight them, I delete them off my “longing list”; and yes, I’m frequently disappointed by my own wimp factor.  But just because I don’t attempt hope over improbable sightings, doesn’t mean I don’t dream the dream of a personal encounter.
So begins the story of my sighting a Common Pauraque.  (Note: there are a LOT of interesting pronunciations of “pauraque” that I’ve heard in recent years.  Some pronunciations focus on what I’ll call a Texas dialect; some Spanish; some French; and some, well, other dialect of unknown origin.  But I personally like, and try to consistently pronounce, this species of Goatsucker with the Spanish influence of pa-RAH-key.  And yes, I said Goatsucker.)

The Common Pauraque is one of 8 species in the Aves family Caprimulgidae, or commonly, the Goatsucker family.  Within this family, taxonomists define 4 genera.  The Common Pauraque falls within the Nightjar genus.  How could I not be intrigued?  The pa-RAH-key is a Nightjar is a Goatsucker.
Nightjars forage exclusively at night, with insects their prey.  And during the day?  They sleep, of course, as would any hue-mawn with a third shift lifestyle.  As field guides and web portals describe, the Pauraque roosts (sleeps) on the ground, or on low branches, within the dense brushy understory of thick woods.  And if you’ve never seen a picture or photograph of a Common Pauraque, we’re talking serious camouflage!  And if you’ve never seen me foraging off-trail through dense understory within thick woods, it’s because you won’t!   I’ve been there and done that in the part of East Texas famously known as The Big Thicket.  My body’s response to chiggers, ticks, poison ivy and general allergic reactions made for a memorable—never again!  Give me a good trail, and I’m ready.  But what are the chances of a Common Pauraque sleeping trailside?

At best, wooded trails of south Texas only have broken underbrush, fallen tree limbs and various grasses and shrubs trailside:

 Wait a minute—what was THAT!  No—really?  From the trail!

Do you see it, just four feet from the trail's edge?

"Click-on" the photo below.  Do you see the feathers on the eyelid and ocular ring?!  And yes, that's one funky looking bill:

Some days are a bit harder for me than others.  And so I go birding...


  1. Good look at the extensive rictal bristles near the base of the bill.

  2. I'm glad you have birding as your outlet. As great a birder as you are, you have another wonderful gift/outlet...your storytelling. You inspire me to write more (and I'm a writer). Go figure!

  3. Seeing the two sleeping pauraques up close was a thrilling moment in a great and wonderful day. Thanks for getting us to that spot. Way too cool!!


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