Foam Lake Birding No. 76

No. 76
Well, the weather has finally warmed up and we are doing more birding as a result. We have taken several people from back home on tours of some of our favourite haunts and they seemed to enjoy it. I know we certainly did.
One of the birds that we pointed out to our guests belongs to a family of birds that has not been covered in these articles before – the goatsuckers. Yes, goatsuckers. These birds have wide gaping mouths with which to catch insects in flight. In ancient times until quite recently, many people believed that these birds used their big mouths to suck the milk from their goats during the night. Thus a myth was born and a group of birds received a funny name. The family includes nighthawks and whippoorwills among others.
Once again, I have chosen a south Texas specialty – the Paraque. The Paraque
(pronounced “pah rah kay” with the accent on the rah) is a good sized bird a little larger than a robin. It is a bird of the night during which time it hunts insects and makes its loud “peer wurr” sound. (Last year one used to land on the pavement behind our trailer and called for what seemed forever). They are quite easy to find at night by following their calls and, then, shining a light at the sound. When the light falls on the bird its eyes light up.
In the daytime, the Paraque finds a secluded spot on the forest floor where it spends the day sleeping. Here, it can be approached quite closely before it flies away like a giant moth. This, in fact, this is just about the only way its roosting spot can be located. Because the Paraque will return to the same roosting spot day after day, unless it has been repeatedly flushed, it can be observed daily at one’s leisure. An interesting note is that a roosting Paraque will go into a kind of rocking motion when danger gets too close. At this time it is wise to back off a bit and not agitate the bird anymore.
The most interesting thing about goatsuckers, Paraques in particular, is that their camouflage is superb. Even when the bird’s location is known, it is still very difficult to find. The first time that we saw one was during a guided bird walk in the Llano Grande Nature Preserve down here in Weslaco. Even though the guide pointed out the bird’s location exactly and had a spotting scope trained right on it, I and several others still had the dickens of a time finding it with our naked eyes. Eventually, we managed to do it. At this time I took several photos followed by more photos later on when my wife and I were birding by ourselves. (The bird was still hard to spot).
Even in the photos, black and white or in colour, the Paraque is hard to make out because it blends in so well with its surroundings. Have fun looking at this one.