The Common Pauraque (Nyctidromus albicollis) is a most garrulous goatsucker found in the warmer portions of the Americas. From Texas south to Argentina, pauraques populate fields, scrub, and essentially anywhere they may recline unmolested ere they rise for their twilight supper. My experience assures me that the only bird in the genus Nyctidromus isn’t all that difficult to find if you know its habits and habitat. Pronouncing the name of this nifty nightjar properly, on the other hand, seems to lay the most erudite avian enthusiasts low.

What did you just call me?!?

Pauraque is a peculiar name to be sure, but it derives from a Mexican transliteration of the bird’s call. Volume 65 (1948) of the Auk explains “The correct name for the Pauraque.”

The people called the bird “Parruaca” which, in accordance with Spanish rules of pronunciation generally, and local usage in particular, is pronounced, “Pahr-r-r-wah-kuh,” the “r” being rolled rather strongly, the accented syllable “wah” cut rather short, and the final syllable “kuh,” swallowed — that is, pronounced on an indrawn breath.

As the “pah” part of the first syllable is also pronounced rather shortly, or not voiced distinctly, the general effect when heard is of the trilled “r” and the accented “wah,” followed by a clean cut “kuh.” The result as absorbed by the ear is not unlike our word “squawk,” though softened by the preceding and following sounds.

So according to this source, pauraque is pronounced pahr-WAH-kuh. Yet, I heard four or five different pronunciations of the word and probably uttered about three new variations myself. So let’s alleviate some of the anxiety that comes when tackling a new name. How do you pronounce PAURAQUE?

Of course, you can try to avoid the ambiguity entirely by using the Mexican Spanish cuiejo or Belize kriol hooyu to identify this bird, but then you’d have to figure out how to pronounce them too…

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.