Common Pauraque, Nyctidromus albicollis:
Estero Llano Grande State Park; Weslaco, Texas
Last Sunday morning I visited Estero Llano Grande State Park, a wetland in Weslaco, Texas. Water is abundant in this park and it host a variety of water birds such as Snowy Egret, White-faced Ibis, Little Blue Heron, Black-necked Stilts, and others. I saw five lifers in the 2 1/2 hours that I was in the park: Green Kingfisher, Tropical Kingbird, Groved-billed Ani, Ringed Kingfisher, and Common Pauraque. I also saw a Least Grebe, a lifer I saw the day before at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.
Of all these lifers I saw at Estero Llano Grande, I only got photographs of one, the Common Pauraque. This was an easy bird to photography. It was roosting on the forest floor. I was fortunate to have a park naturalist by my side who took me right to the bird. The Common Pauraque is a Nightjar, like the Common Nighthawk, Chuck-will's-widow and Whip-poor-will which are commonly known in the eastern states.
As this photo show, the Common Pauraque is a master of camouflage. Its plumage is perfectly adapted to blend into the leaf litter on the forest floor. Once found, the bird is easy to see, but finding the Common Pauraque as it sits motionless on the forest floor is a hard task. Thankfully I was with a naturalist who knew exactly where this bird roosted during the day. At dusk the Common Pauraque comes to life and takes to the sky as it flies through the air scooping-up insects in its large froglike mouth.
Just in case you can't make out the bird. Its head and body is on the right half of the image (facing right), and the tail to the left. Its small beak is in the middle of the page (up and down), and only a couple of inches in, from the right side of the image. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to keep foreground branches out of the image.