The Nightjar (Caprimulgus Europaeus) is a fascinating bird and one of the hardest to spot. Nightjars are nocturnal birds and remain almost invisible by day courtesy of their camouflaging, bark-like plumage. They are 25-28cm in length and boast short bills but wide mouths which enable them to catch moths in flight. Nightjars have very short legs and so struggle to walk.
However, they are extremely agile in the air. When in flight, their silhouette is similar to that of a Kestrel as they have tapered wings and long tails. They
spend the daylight hours on the ground where they are concealed by their plumage which gives them the appearance of small fallen logs. When dusk falls, they begin to make a strange sound reminiscent of a mechanical whirring and then take flight in search of food.
What is the Nightjar’s population and distribution?
Nightjars arrive in the UK from Africa in April and May. They remain here for the summer months before migrating back to Africa in September. They can be found on heaths and moors and in woodland with clearings. Unfortunately, only 4,600 pairs now breed in the UK as these birds are in decline. They are most commonly seen in southern England but are also found in Wales, northern England and southwest Scotland. It is thought that these birds have been impacted by habitat loss and the nightjar is now on the Amber list of species of conservation concern.
What do nightjars eat?
Nightjars eat invertebrates, including moths, flies and beetles. They spend their nights hunting for food and can catch it on the wing, thanks to their wide mouths and silent flight.
Where do nightjars nest?
These birds usually breed from late May to August. They do not build a nest but lay their eggs directly on the ground. Clutches usually feature just two eggs which are incubated for 20 days. Chicks fledge after roughly 14 days.
Did you know?
Legend has it that nightjars feed on the milk of goats. They are often seen close to livestock but this is because they are after insects not the milk!
It is said that you can attract male Nightjars towards you at dusk by waving a white handkerchief.