RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Nestled on the ground amidst the clutter of leaves and sticks is a master of camouflage. Barely discernible, except for a mere unblinking slit of eye is the Pauraque.
Deep South Texas is the northernmost range for this secretive bird, which occurs as far south as Argentina. The Pauraque is a member of the Nightjar or Goatsucker family and spends the day resting quietly on leaf litter before becoming active at dusk when it will begin feeding on insects.
There are some 70 worldwide varieties of this fascinating family, and the European name Nightjar comes from the nocturnal call of several species that are said to jar the night.
Another common name, Goatsucker, dates back to ancient times when these birds were thought to suck at the udders of goats. The myth probably had its origins when people saw the birds swooping among grazing goats as they were catching insects.
This Pauraque on a ranch west of Rio Grande City is incubating, and when it flushes two beautiful salmon colored eggs are revealed.
It doesn’t stay gone very long before returning to settle back in on the eggs. Once they hatch the chicks will mature rapidly. They will be able to leave the nest site in a couple of days and find a new hiding place until they are ready to fly.
But for now, this exquisitely camouflaged bird will continue incubating, remaining motionless on the forest floor where it will rely on an extraordinary ability to blend in with its surroundings.