Common Poorwill

: A Secretive Night Bird

The Common Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) is a small, nocturnal bird that belongs to the family Caprimulgidae. It’s found throughout western North America, from southern Canada to central Mexico. In this blog post, we’ll provide you with an in-depth overview of this fascinating bird.

Basic Description

The Common Poorwill measures between 7-9 inches long and has a wingspan of around 15 inches. Its plumage is generally brown, grey or blackish-brown with intricate patterns of speckles and bars that help it blend into its surroundings during the day when it rests on the ground.

This bird has large eyes for hunting insects at night and a unique characteristic where they can close their nostrils while feeding on insects as they are flying through the air.

Where To Find This Bird

Common Poorwills live in dry habitats such as arid deserts, grasslands, sagebrush steppes and open woodlands throughout Western United States including Nevada, Utah, Montana Wyoming and Mexico up until Costa Rica; They avoid areas near water bodies due to predation threats.


This species sticks to rocky terrains that give them more protection from predators like snakes or coyotes who would prey on their young if given the chance. Their nests consist of scrape depressions which are usually surrounded by rocks crevices or vegetation covers which aids in protecting eggs and chicks from weather conditions .


This species feeds mainly on flying insects like moths , beetles , cicadas among others . During winter months where insect population decline significantly , they feed mostly on berry fruits such as elderberry or juniper berries .

Cool Facts:

1. The name “Poorwill” comes because people once believed these birds spent most of their lives sleeping instead of active hunting for food.
2. The Common Poorwill can enter a state of torpor, slowing down their metabolism and reducing their energy consumption to survive during periods when food is scarce.
3. They have a unique vocalization known as the “poorwill call” which is a distinctive sound produced by males during breeding season.

In conclusion, The Common Poorwill may be an elusive bird but it’s worth seeking out for its interesting behaviors and unusual adaptations. You can observe them in rocky areas or listen for their calls on dark summer nights in Western North America. Happy Birdwatching!