The chotacabras pauraque, as it is known in Spanish, is related to our local members of the goatsucker family — which is the origin of its name.

There’s still a lot of winter left, so it’s a perfect time to get to know a bird that doesn’t ever have to experience winter, at least as we know it. Last week we spent some time with the active, sociable and very visible bananaquit. When I was in Cozumel, Mexico, recently I encountered a very different kind of creature — a mysterious, nocturnal, rarely-seen one. This nightjar with the haunting cry is known in Spanish as “chotacabras pauraque”, or in English, by the more quotidian name “common pauraque”.

Their Spanish name reflects another name for this family of birds, goatsuckers, which derives from a very old folk belief that they used their weird, large mouth to suck the milk from goats (this is also where the term “chupacabra” is derived from). Like other nightjars, pauraques have a musical, mournful cry that makes the superstitions and myths that surround them pretty understandable.

Morris mug

Sarah Morris


Extra credit if you can spot the pauraque hiding in the leaf litter. (Contributed photo by Kati Fleming, CC BY-SA 3.0)

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