Jamaican Poorwill Siphonorhis americana


Justification of Red List category
This species has not been recorded since 1860, and it may have been driven to extinction by introduced mongooses and rats, whose effect may have been exacerbated by habitat destruction. However, it cannot yet be presumed to be Extinct because there have been recent unconfirmed reports, and surveys may possibly have overlooked this nocturnal species. Any remaining population is likely to be tiny, and for these reasons it is treated as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).

Population justification
Any remaining population is assumed to be tiny (numbering fewer than 50 individuals and mature individuals) based on a lack of records since 1860.

Trend justification
The current population trend is unknown as the species has not been recorded since 1860 and may be extinct.

Distribution and population

The species is endemic to Jamaica, but has not been positively recorded since 1860. Reference has been made to five specimens, but only four have been located (C. Levy in litt. 1994, 1999). Two specimens (one untraced) were taken in the Great Salt Pond area near Spanishtown in 1857, with others collected in the Bluefields area, near Savanna-la-Mar in western Jamaica, (apparently) at Freeman's Hall near Albert Town and from near Linstead (BirdLife Jamaica in litt. 1998, C. Levy in litt. 1994, 1999). Three of these localities (excepting Freeman's Hall) are in the lowlands on the southern side of the island, and there is anecdotal evidence that the species could often be found in (what is now assumed to be) the Hellshire Hills (BirdLife Jamaica in litt. 1998, Cleere and Nurney 1998, Raffaele et al. 1998, C. Levy in litt. 1994, 1999). However, the specimen information is confused by the practice of labelling skins with the residence of the collector as the location of collection (C. Levy in litt. 1994, 1999). There have been unconfirmed reports of caprimulgids from Milk River and Hellshire Hills, which apparently do not refer to other known species on the island (Cleere and Nurney 1998).


The south side of the island is drier, suggesting that the species is (or was) found in either dry limestone forest, semi-arid woodland or open country at low elevations. It presumably nests (or nested) on the ground.


Introduced mammalian predators are considered primarily responsible for the possible extirpation of this species. Specifically, the introduction of rats (Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus), which are thought to have arrived to the island along with the first colonists, and Small Indian Mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus), which was introduced in 1872 (after the last confirmed record), were likely the cause of population declines. As its ecological requirements are not known, the impact of habitat destruction is difficult to assess. However, the loss of at least 75% of original forest, with remaining forest largely secondary, presumably had (and perhaps continues to have) an adverse effect. A proposed transshipment port and industrial centre on the Goat Islands could lead to development and habitat destruction in the neighbouring Hellshire Hills (van Veen et al. 2014), an AZE site for this species (J. Lamoreux in litt. 2014).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey, especially Milk River and the Hellshire Hills, to locate any remaining populations (BirdLife Jamaica in litt. 1998).


24 cm. Small, long-tailed nightjar. Overall mottled dark brown, narrow white chin patch, reddish-brown hindneck, spotted black and white. Long tail (extending well beyond primaries), tipped white in male and narrowly buff in female. Similar spp. Antillean Nighthawk Chordeiles gundlachii is larger with conspicuous white band in wing, flies high with conspicuous call and, when perched, primaries reach tail tip. Chuck-will's-widow Caprimulgus carolinensis is even larger and reddish-brown, with proportionally shorter tail (extends slightly beyond primaries). Voice Unknown.


Text account compilers
Wheatley, H., Everest, J.

Ashpole, J, Benstead, P., Bird, J., BirdLife Jamaica, Butchart, S., Lamoreux, J., Levy, C., Sharpe, C.J. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Siphonorhis americana. Downloaded from on 24/09/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/09/2023.