Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii)

Common Poorwill

[order] CAPRIMULGIFORMES | [family] Caprimulgidae | [latin] Phalaenoptilus nuttallii | [UK] Common Poorwill | [FR] Engoulevent de Nuttall | [DE] Winter-Nachtschwalbe | [ES] Chotacabras Pachacua | [NL] Poorwill


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Siphonorhis nuttallii
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii NA, MA sw Canada to n Mexico
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii adustus s Arizona (USA), n Mexico
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii californicus w California (USA), n Baja California (Mexico)
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii centralis c Mexico
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii dickeyi s Baja California (Mexico)
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii hueyi se California and sw Arizona (USA, ne Baja California (Mexico)
Phalaenoptilus nuttallii nuttallii sw Canada, w and wc USA and n Mexico

Physical charateristics

Best known from its night cry in arid hills. It appears smaller than a Nighthawk, has more rounded wings (no white bar), and its short, rounded tail has white corners.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 19 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 21 days
fledging min.: 20 days fledging max.: 23 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Middle America : Southwest Canada to North Mexico


Dry hills, open brush.
Inhabits various kinds of open dry terrain at low elevations in the West, including rocky mesas with scattered shrubs, washes and hills in Sonoran desert, scrubby areas in dry open pine forest. May be found in open grassland, but usually only around rock
y outcrops.


Male calls at night in spring to defend territory and attract a mate, sitting on ground or low perch and calling poor-will repeatedly. (Females may also give this call at times.)
Site is on ground, on bare open soil, rock, or gravel, sometimes on leaves or pine needles. Often shaded by a shrub or overhanging rock, and sometimes in secluded rock shelter. No nest is built, although bird may make slight scrape in soil.
Eggs: 2. White, sometimes with a few spots. Incubation is by both parents, 20-21 days.
Young: Both parents feed young, by regurgitating insects. If nest site is disturbed, adults can move either the eggs or the young, sometimes more than 10′. Age of young at first flight 20-
23 days. May raise 2 broods per year; female may incubate eggs of second clutch while male is still feeding first brood.

Feeding habits

Insects. Feeds mainly on night-flying insects, especially moths and beetles, also some grasshoppers, flies, and others. Insects up to 1 1/2″ long can be swallowed whole.
Forages mostly by sitting on the ground or on a low perch and making short upward flights to catch passing insects. Occasionally forages in longer, extended flights. Does most foraging at dawn and dusk and on moonlit nights, when sky is light enough for
the bird to spot flying insects by silhouette. Sometimes picks up insects (and possibly spiders) from ground.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Common Poorwill status Least Concern


Southeastern British Columbia, western United States to central Mexico. Breeds sporadically east to dash line. bMigration:
Departs from northern part of breeding range in fall; migratory route and winter range of these birds not well known. In Southwest, may be present all year, remaining torpid in cooler weather.

Distribution map

Common Poorwill distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *