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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Poorwill -- Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
(formerly Poor-will)

RANGE: Breeds from southern interior British Columbia, Montana, southeastern Alberta, and southwestern South Dakota south to Baja California, central Mexico, and central Texas and east to eastern Kansas. Winters in southern portion of breeding range.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits a variety of arid and semiarid habitats in the West, from lowlands up to 8,000 to 10,000 feet on mountain slopes. Inhabits sparse desert brushland, open prairies, open pinyon-juniper woodlands, mixed chaparral-grassland, brushy rocky canyons, mountain scrub, and pine-oak woodlands. Seems to prefer rocky habitats with scrubby cover or xeric woodlands.

NEST: Lays eggs on gravelly ground or on a flat rock, or in a slight hollow scraped in the ground. Often lays eggs so that they are partially shaded by a bush, weeds, or a tuft of grass.

FOOD: Catches insects such as moths, beetles, chinch bugs, locusts, and grasshoppers by leaping from the ground or a perch, or by picking them up from the ground.

REFERENCES: Bent 1940a, Bevier in Farrand 1983b, Oberholser 1974a, Terres 1980.

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