Subfamily Chordeilinae (New World nighthawks)
Subfamily Caprimulginae (typical nightjars)
|The Caprimulgiformes is an order of birds that includes
a number of birds with global distribution (except Antarctica).
They are generally insectivorous and nocturnal. The order gets
its name from the Latin for "goat-sucker", an old
based on an erroneous view of the European Nightjar's feeding
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal or crepuscular birds with
long wings, short legs and very short bills. They are
sometimes referred to as goatsuckers from the mistaken belief
that they suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker
is Caprimulgus). Some New World species are named as nighthawks.
Nightjars usually nest on the ground.
Nightjars are found around the world. They are mostly active
in the late evening and early morning or at night,
and feed predominantly on moths and other large flying insects.
Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed
wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically coloured to
resemble bark or leaves. Some species, unusual for birds, perch
along a branch, rather than across it. This helps to
conceal them during the day. Bracken is their preferred habitat.
The Common Poorwill, Phalaenoptilus nuttallii is unique
as a bird that undergoes a form of hibernation, becoming
torpid and with a much reduced body temperature for weeks or
months, although other nightjars can enter a state of
torpor for shorter periods.
Nightjars lay one or two patterned eggs directly onto bare ground.
It has been suggested that nightjars will move their
eggs and chicks from the nesting site in the event of danger
by carrying them in their mouths. This suggestion has been
repeated many times in ornithology books, but while this may
accidentally happen, surveys of nightjar research have
found very little evidence to support this idea.
Just to show you how difficult it is to decide in which
group to place a bird. This is about the Caprimulgiformes:
"Traditionally, they were regarded, on morphological
grounds, as being midway between the owls (Strigiformes) and
the swifts. Like the owls, they are nocturnal hunters with
a highly developed sense of sight, and like the swifts they
are excellent flyers with small, weak legs. At one time or
another, they have been allied with owls, swifts, kingfishers,
hoopoes, mousebirds, hornbills, rollers, bee-eaters, woodpeckers,
trogons and hummingbirds.
Based on analysis of sequence data - notably ß-fibrinogen
intron 7 -, Fain & Houde (2004) considered the families
of the Caprimulgiformes to be members of the proposed clade
Metaves, which also includes the hoatzin, tropicbirds,
sandgrouse, pigeons, kagu, sunbittern, mesites, flamingos,
grebes and swifts and hummingbirds. This clade was also
found by the expanded study of Ericson et al. (2006), but
support was extremely weak."
If you wish to get even more confused, keep on reading
Band-tailed Nighthawk, Nyctiprogne leucopyga
Plain-tailed Nighthawk, Nyctiprogne vielliardi
Nacunda Nighthawk, Podager nacunda
Rufous-bellied Nighthawk, Lurocalis rufiventris
Short-tailed Nighthawk, Lurocalis semitorquatus
Least Nighthawk, Chordeiles pusillus
Sand-coloured Nighthawk, Chordeiles rupestris
Common Nighthawk, Chordeiles minor
Antillean Nighthawk, Chordeiles gundlachii
Pauraque, Nyctidromus albicollis
Common Poorwill, Phalaenoptilus nuttallii
Jamaican Pauraque, Siphonorhis americana
Least Pauraque or Least Poorwill, Siphonorhis
Eared Poorwill, Nyctiphrynus mcleodii
Ocellated Poorwill, Nyctiphrynus ocellatus
Chocó Poorwill, Nyctiphrynus rosenbergi
Yucatan Poorwill, Nyctiphrynus yucatanicus
(some 50-60 species, incl. the European Nightjar)
- Long-primaried nightjars
Pennant-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx vexillarius
Ladder-tailed Nightjar, Hydropsalis climacocerca
Scissor-tailed Nightjar, Hydropsalis torquata
Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Uropsalis lyra
Swallow-tailed Nightjar, Uropsalis segmentata
Long-trained Nightjar, Macropsalis creagra
Sickle-winged Nightjar, Eleothreptus anomalus
White-winged Nightjar (Caprimulgus candicans)
(aka Eleothreptus candicans)
Nighthawk, Chordelies acutipennis
|Greater Antillean Nightjar
|Grey (Jungle) Nightjar
|Puerto Rican Nightjar
|Abyssinian (Montane) Nightjar
|Itombwe (Prigogines) Nightjar
|Montane (Ruwenzori) Nightjar
Nighthawk, Chordelies acutipennis, at La Ensenada,
Photo: Jerry Oldenettel
Nightjar, Macrodipteryx longipennis
|The Lesser Nighthawk, Chordeiles
acutipennis, is a nightjar found throughout a large part
of the Americas.
The adults are dark with brown, grey and white patterning on
the upperparts and breast; the long upperwings are black
and show a white bar in flight. The tail is dark with white
barring; the underparts are buffy with fine black horizontal
streaking. The adult male has a white throat; the female has
a light brown throat. This bird looks similar to the Common
Nighthawk, but is slightly smaller, has a slightly less deeply
forked tail, and is more buffy in coloration. The calls are
completely different. The Lesser Nighthawk has a rapid, low
whistled melodious trill, lasting several seconds.
It is usually heard only near breeding areas.
Their breeding habitat is open country from southwest United
States through Central America to tropical South America.
They usually nest on bare ground, sometimes in raised locations
including stumps and boulders or flat house roofs.
The two eggs are laid directly on bare ground--there is no nest.
Incubation is performed largely by the female and
lasts for about 20 days. Young fledge at about 20 days of age.
Adults flushed from the nest may try to distract the
intruder or defend the nest site by aerial attack. Young birds
sometimes perform a defense display by opening up their
mouths and spreading their wings, looking to appear threatening
and looking larger than they actually are before
they run off.
These birds are partial migrants. The Lesser Nighthawk retreats
from the United States and northern Mexico during
the winter months. Occasionally single birds may be found overwintering.
The nighthawk is also occasionally found
as a vagrant to the US Gulf Coast states to Florida.
They catch flying insects on the wing, mainly foraging near
dawn and dusk (crepuscular), sometimes at night with
a full moon or near street lighting.
Remember, those birds are night-birds, so pictures often have to
be taken in the dark.
Standard-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx longipennis. Comoé
Nat. Park, Ivory Coast.
Photo: Jan Steffen
Nightjar, Caprimulgus nigrescens
The Standard-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx longipennis, is
a bird in the nightjar family.
It is a resident breeder in Africa from Senegal east to Ethiopia.
It is found in dry savannah habitats, with some scrub.
The adult male has a bizarre wing ornament during the breeding
season, with a broad central flight feather on each wing
elongated to 38 cm, much longer than the bird's body. 20 cm
or more of this is bare shaft. In normal flight, these
feathers trail behind, but in display flight they are raised
vertically like standards. Outside the breeding season,
there are no plumage distinctions between the male and female.
Thanks to C Mathiessen and Rockjumper
When roosting on the ground during the day, this medium-sized
(2023 cm long) nightjar is mainly variegated grey,
with a browner collar. It is a shadowy form with easy, silent
moth-like flight; this nightjar is relatively short-tailed,
lacks white in the wings or tail. The song is a churring trill.
Like other nightjars, the Standard-winged Nightjar feeds on
insects in flight, the huge gape opening wide for moths
and beetles. It flies at dusk, most often at sundown, and can
sometimes be seen with Flying Foxes.
No nest is made; the two elongated and elliptical eggs are placed
upon the bare ground.
Nightjar, Caprimulgus nigrescens, Mato Grosso Brazil,
Nightjar do not build a nest but lay their single egg on bare
leaf litter or a depression in granite rock.
|The Blackish Nightjar, Caprimulgus nigrescens, is a species
of bird in the Caprimulgidae family. This relatively
nightjar is found in the Guianas and the Amazon. It is rare
or even absent in the western part, but is among the commonest
nightjars in the eastern Amazon and the Guianas.
Eggs are laid in a slight depression of the bare granite rock,
exposed to full sunshine or on litter of dead plant material
near vegetation, shaded by overhanging branches. Their eggs
are laid on the ground. Clutches consist of I or 2 eggs
incubated by male and female, and both care for the young. Fledging
is estimated at 14 days, young leave the nest site
within 16-18 days. Eggs are cryptically colored and slightly
glossy, with a creamish to pinkish buff ground color and
brown spots overlaying brownish spots and blotches. At hatching,
the semiprecocial young have open eyes and are
covered with cryptically colored down. Both on open granite
rock and on litter, they blend well with their surrounding.
During brooding injury-feigning displays are given readily;
the parents grovel on the ground with drooping wings trying
to lure the intruder away from the egg or young.
During daylight hours, they roost on the ground or low in
vegetation, often in open situations exposed to full sunshine.
During twilight and nighttime hours they become active, feeding
entirely on night-flying insects. Forages over rocky
outcrops and above tree canopy.