Nightjar

Nightjar

Scientific name: Caprimulgus europaeus

Did you know: Nightjars are also known as “goatsuckers,” a name derived from an ancient myth that they suck milk from goats.

What Do Nightjars Look Like? (how to identify them)

Nightjars are medium-sized, nocturnal birds with long wings, short legs, and very short bills. 

Their plumage, a blend of cream, buff, brown, grey, and white, is masterfully mottled and streaked, providing perfect camouflage against the woodland floor. This unique feathering makes them resemble the bark of a tree, aiding their stealthy daytime slumber.

Differences Between Male And Female Nightjars

Male Nightjars flaunt bright white patches on their wing and tail tips, visible during their nocturnal display flights. Females, while similarly patterned, lack these conspicuous white markings.

What Do Nightjars Eat?

Nightjars primarily feed on nocturnal insects, including moths and beetles. Their wide mouths and silent flight make them adept hunters in the dim twilight.

Where Do Nightjars Live? (inc. migration info)

Favouring open country with some vegetation, Nightjars are found worldwide, except in Antarctica. They typically nest on the ground and are known to rest and roost on roads. 

Species like the European Nightjar migrate southward in winter, with some populations travelling as far as the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Nightjars)

The male Nightjar’s churring song is the most notable aspect of their vocalisation. This eerie, mechanical sound, rising and falling in the twilight, is a hallmark of the species. It’s used for territorial defence and attracting a mate.

Fun Nightjar Facts (kid friendly)

  • Nightjars can catch insects mid-flight in the dark!
  • They are sometimes called “nighthawks” in the New World.
  • The Nightjar’s camouflage is so good, they can be hard to spot even when you’re looking right at them.
  • Their mythical name ‘goatsucker’ comes from an old belief, not from their actual habits.
  • Nightjars don’t build nests; they lay their eggs directly on the ground.
  • They are known to migrate long distances, some travelling from Europe to Africa.
  • You’re more likely to hear a Nightjar than see one due to their elusive nature.
  • They have a special way of flying, with long glides and occasional wingbeats.
  • In folklore, some believed waving a white handkerchief at night would attract Nightjars.
  • Nightjars are part of a bird family that is found all around the world.

Facts About The Nightjar

Diet: Insects - moths and beetles.
Bird Family: Nightjars
Length: 26-28cm
Wingspan: 57-64cm
Weight: 65-100g
Scientific Name: Caprimulgus europaeus

The Nightjar Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August

Nightjar Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile