White-tailed Nightjar is resident in southern Central America and northern South America. It occurs in Costa Rica and Panama (Wetmore 1968, Ridgely and Gwynne 1989, Stiles and Skutch 1989). There is an apparently isolated population in the Cauca Valley of Colombia, and another in northwestern Ecuador (Hilty and Brown 1989, Schmitt and Schmitt 1990, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001a). White-tailed Nightjar is more continuously distributed from northern Colombia east across northern Venezuela to Trinidada, Tobago, the Guianas, and adjacent northern Brazil (Haverschmidt 1968, Snyder 1968, Hilty and Brown 1986, ffrench 1991, Tostain et al. 1992, Sick 1993, Hilty 2003). It also occurs on Martinique, on Margarita Island, and on the islands of Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire.
White-tailed Nightjar primarily occurs in the lowlands, but reaches 1200 m in Venezuela (Hilty 2003) and has been reported as high as 2100 m in Colombia (Hilty and Brown 1986).