This goatsucker performs flight displays and roosts conspicuously. Normally solitary, it sometimes forages or migrates in loose flocks. Polytypic. Length 8.8–9.6".
Varies geographically. Upperparts black to paler brownish gray; crown and upper back darkest; paler markings concentrated on upperwing coverts, scapulars, tertials. Underparts barred blackish brown and white or buff, chest and malar area darker, spotted with buff or dull white. Adult male: white throat patch, subterminal tail band, and primary patch about halfway between bend of wing and wing tip. Adult female: throat patch buffy, primary patch smaller, tail band reduced or lacking. Juvenile: generally paler, more uniform above with finer spotting and vermiculations.
Nine subspecies, 7 in North America. Eastern birds darkest, blackish above, less mottling on back; nominate minor