Like many of its relatives, Jamaican Pauraque is a mid-sized nightjar with rufous brown, highly cryptic plumage with black, white, and buffy patterning. It is characterized by its large, white throat collar and proportionally longer tail, which at rest extends significantly beyond the primary feathers. Slightly dimorphic, males have white tipped outer tail feathers, while these feathers are tipped buffy on females.
Jamaican Pauraque is most similar to Least Pauraque (Siphonorhis brewsteri), which is smaller, grayer and darkly patterned, and which does not occur on Jamaica. Antillean Nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii) and Northern Potoo (Nyctibius jamaicensis) are the only other caprimulgiforms birds that breed in Jamaica. The nighthawk is larger than the pauraque, has a prominent white band across the primaries, at rest the primaries extend to the end of the tail, and the nighthawk is less strictly nocturnal and forages with continuously in flight high above the ground. The potoo is much, much larger than the pauraque with overall tawny plumage, and it poses upright on trees and branches. Both species make conspicuous and recognizable vocalizations. Chuck-will’s-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis) is an uncommon nonbreeding resident, but it is signifcantly larger than the pauraque, is more rufous, and proportionally shorter tailed. Males also have a different tail pattern. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) migrates through the West Indies and Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) occurs as a vagrant to Jamaica. Common Nighthawk differs from the pauraque in the same features that distinguish Antillean Nighthawk, with its large white wing patches and distinctive vocalizations and foraging behavior. Eastern Whip-poor-will is larger and grayer with a different tail pattern, and also cam be separated by its different song.
The following description is based on Cleere (1998):
Adult male: Forecrown, crown, and nape rufous brown with broad, blackish brown streaks and a faint rufous buff hindneck collar. Mantle and back are rufous brown with blackish brown streaking. Rump and uppertail coverts are similar but with thinner streaking. Scapulars are pale buff heavily speckled brown, with broad blackish brown centers and rufous edges to the inner webs. Wing coverts are rufous with buffish wash, speckled with brown, and distinctly marked with patches of blackish brown and small, pale buff spots with pale brown centers. Primaries are brown with regular buff spots on the outer webs and barred with tawny buff on the inner webs. Secondaries are similar but becoming paler and more regularly barred towards the inner feathers. Tertials nearly sandy or gray white. Rectrices rufous brown, with flecks and narrown bars of brown. All but the central pair of rectrices have narrow white tips. Lores and auriculars are rufous, speckled with brown. The chin and upper throat are rufous; the lower throat is pure white. The breast is rufous with faint, narrow brown bars. The belly and flanks are buffy with brown barring and bold whitish spots. Lower belly and undertail coverts buff with brown barring.
Adult female: Much like male, but slightly less rufous overall. The crown is more broadly streaked, and the underparts are more heavily spotted with white. Like the male, the tips of R5-R2 are colored, but with yellow buffy rather than white.
A male collected in September of 1859 was undergoing wing and tail molt (Cleere 1998). No further data exists; presumably this species followed the complex basic molt strategy.
Iris: undescribed? (but presumably dark brown)
Bill: brown, darker at tip (on dried specimen, or is this the color in life?)
Tarsi and toes: brown (on dried specimen, or is this the color in life?)
Bare parts color data from Ridgway (1914).
Total length: 23 cm (Ridgway 1914), 23-25 cm (Cleere 1998).
Linear measurrments (from Cleere 1998):
male (n not stated, but presumably 2 or 3)
wing length (flat): range 133-145 mm
tail length: range 117-131 mm
bill length (from base): range 13.5-16.5 mm
tarsus length: range 22.5-23.6 mm.
female (n = 1)
wing length (flat): 135 mm
tail length: 118 mm
bill length (from base): 13.9 mm
tarsus length: no data
Mass: no data