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Common Poorwill - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Brian Hubbs
Arizona, USA, August, 2016
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii


L. 18-20 cm (7-8 in)

  • Small nightjar with
  • Short rounded tail and wings
  • Basic coloration variable
    • Brownish gray to light gray with cryptic patterning
  • Bold white throat mark
  • White tips to three outer tail feathers
  • Blackish on auriculars
  • Lighter sides
  • Darker middle crown
  • Black arrowhead markings on scapulars


Five different subspecies are distributed from Southern British Columbia to Northern Mexico and east to Arizona. At least the northern subspecies are migrants, wintering to Central Mexico.



Five subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • P. n. nuttallii:
  • P. n. californicus:
  • California (west of the Sierra Nevada) to northern Baja
  • P. n. hueyi:
  • Lower Colorado River of California; northern Baja and south-western Arizona
  • P. n. dickeyi:
  • P. n. adustus:
  • Extreme southern Arizona to northern Mexico (central Sonora)


Semiopen to open semi-arid to arid areas, including those with scrubs.


Common Poorwill hunts from the ground with short fluttering jumps into the air; can be seen sitting on quiet side roads.

One of very few species of birds for which hibernation has been shown, the Common Poorwill will hibernate in cold weather, sometimes in replacement for migrating south in Winter.


Consists almost entirely of night-flying insects, such as beetles, moths, cicadas, bugs, grasshoppers, locusts and flying ants.


The white eggs are laid directly on the ground. They are most likely to have a second brood.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Allaboutbirds
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved October 2016)

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