Jamaican Poorwill
Siphonorhis americana

Caprimulgiformes Order – Caprimulgidae Family

The Jamaican Poorwill is endemic to Jamaica, but the species has not been recorded since 1860 on the island. However, there have been some recent unconfirmed reports.
The species is (and was) heavily threatened by introduced predators such as rats and mongooses, and by habitat loss through logging and conversion to cultivated areas.
The Jamaican Poorwill is listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) due to lack of confirmed sightings.  

Length: 23-25 cm

The Jamaican Poorwill has rufous-brown upperparts with darker streaks. On the head, the crown shows broader blackish streaks. There is a rufous-buff indistinct collar on the hindneck. On the upperwings, wing-coverts are rufous-brown with blackish-brown patches and small, pale buff spots with brown centres. The male’s tail is tipped with white.
On the underparts, we can see a large white throat patch. Rest of underparts is rufous-brown with conspicuous whitish spots on upper belly, whereas lower belly and undertail-coverts are mostly buff barred brown.
The short bill is black. The eyes are dark brown. Legs and feet are blackish.

Both male and female have short, rounded wings regularly spotted tawny-buff, but the usual white markings of the wing are absent.
The female has mostly buff rather than whitish tail markings.
The juvenile is not described.

The Jamaican Poorwill is only found in Jamaica. The four known specimens were found in the lowlands, in the drier south side of the island.

The Jamaican Poorwill possibly occurs in open country such as dry milestone forest and semi-arid woodland.

The Jamaican Poorwill’s voice is unknown. However, the Caprimulgidae may have a large repertoire of calls, and can be more vocal at the beginning of the breeding season. But they are often silent outside this period.
The main sound is the advertising call given by the male to proclaim the territory. The alarm call is a loud, guttural hissing slowly rising in pitch and volume, as the gape is widely opened.

BEHAVIOUR IN THE WILD:                
The Jamaican Poorwill feeds probably on insects. It forages by pursuing medium-sized insects in flight. The prey is caught and swallowed in the air.
This species is crepuscular and nocturnal and forages beneath the forest canopy. This behaviour makes the bird very difficult to see.

While the male gives its territorial call, the white throat patch is displayed and the feathers are puffed out at each call note. This white patch is used as visual signal to potential mates and other rival males.

The Jamaican Poorwill is probably resident in Jamaica.
It has very agile and buoyant flight, during which it often turns, twists, rises and descends during the chases after prey.

Nothing is known about the breeding behaviour of this species. It probably breeds when insects are abundant.
Like most Caprimulgidae, the male is territorial. They nest on the ground where the cryptic plumage makes them invisible.
The male defends strongly the territory and these birds are often monogamous with the pairs mating for life. Both mates share the nesting duties.

The eggs are laid directly on the ground on the leaf litter or on bare soil. Usually, only one or two eggs are laid, and the incubation lasts between 16 and 22 days, depending on the species.

The Jamaican Poorwill is (and was) heavily threatened by introduced predators such as rats (Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus) and mongooses (Herpestes auropunctatus), the latter were introduced in 1872. In addition, habitat destruction with logging and intense forest clearance presumably had a negative effect.
If some populations are remaining, there are less than 50 individuals, based on absence of records since 1860.
The Jamaican Poorwill is listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).

Fr: Engoulevent de la Jamaïque
Ang: Jamaican Poorwill
All: Jamaikanachtschwalbe
Esp: Chotacabras Jamaicano
Ita: Succiacapre della Giamaica
Nd: Jamaicapauraque
Sd: jamaicanattskärra

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 5 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334253

BIRDS OF THE WEST INDIES – by Herbert Raffaele, Kristin Williams et Tracy Pedersen – Helm – ISBN: 9780713649055 

NIGHTJARS - A Guide to Nightjars and Related Nightbirds – Nigel Cleere and Dave Nurney - Yale University Press - First Edition (August 11, 1998) - ISBN 10: 0300074573 / ISBN 13: 9780300074574

Extinct Birds De Julian P. Hume – Editeur: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017 – ISBN: 1472937457, 9781472937452 - 560 pages

Nightjars and Their Allies: The Caprimulgiformes De D.T. Holyoak – Editeur: OUP Oxford, 2001 – ISBN: 0198549873, 9780198549871 - 773 pages

Avibase ( Denis Lepage)

Birdlife International

HBW Alive

Edge of Existence - Jamaican Poorwill

Neotropical Birds – Cornell Lab of Ornithology


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