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Species Guide

Eared Poorwill

Nyctiphrynus mcleodii

The eared poorwill, Nyctiphrynus mcleodii, is a diminutive nightjar endemic to the varied landscapes of Mexico. This elusive bird measures a modest 20 to 21 centimeters in length, with males tipping the scales between 30.8 to 37 grams and females slightly lighter at 24 to 35.3 grams. Its plumage is a tapestry of grayish hues adorned with black and white spots on the wings, while a striking white band encircles its throat. Notably, the species sports distinctive crown feathers that resemble ear tufts, lending it its common name. The underparts are a blend of gray and buff, speckled with white, and the tail feathers, save for the central pair, are tipped in white. A rufous morph exists, cloaked in shades of cinnamon to reddish-brown.

Identification Tips

When attempting to identify the eared poorwill, look for the characteristic white throat band and the ear tufts from which it derives its name. The bird's size and spotted wing pattern are also key identifiers, as is the white tipping on the tail feathers. The rufous morph can be distinguished by its overall warmer coloration.


The eared poorwill favors the semi-arid mountainous terrains of open pine/oak or oak woodlands. It can also be found in wooded gulleys, hillsides below cloud forests, and overgrown fields, typically ranging in elevation from 600 to 2,000 meters, though it has been recorded up to 2,500 meters.


This species is predominantly found along the length of western Mexico. The nominate subspecies, N. m. mcleodii, inhabits areas from Chihuahua and Sonora south to Jalisco and Colima, while N. m. rayi is located in Guerrero and Oaxaca, with records in the latter suggesting some seasonal movement.


The eared poorwill is a nocturnal insectivore, foraging by sallying from perches or the ground. It is known to consume a diet primarily composed of beetles and moths.

Song & calls

The male's nocturnal song is a loud, abrupt 'peeyo' or 'peejo' that ends with emphasis, often delivered from a perch or the ground. Additionally, it emits a descending, wavering 'teu-uu-uu'. Its calls include 'gwik', 'wuik', and 'chuck' notes.


Breeding season for the eared poorwill appears to span from April to June. The species lays a clutch of two eggs directly on the ground, with both sexes sharing incubation duties.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the eared poorwill as Least Concern, recognizing its extensive range and considerable population. Although the population is thought to be in decline, no immediate threats have been identified to this resilient bird.

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Eared Poorwills on Birda


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