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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Caprimulgidae (nightjars)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Strigiformes

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Caprimulgus europaeus (European nightjar)

The European nightjar is a Palearctic breeding migrant, with its non-breeding grounds mainly in West and East Africa, but also to a lesser extent in southern Africa. It arrives in our region around September-October, after a long and difficult flight from Eurasia. It occurs in spaced out populations across southern Africa, generally preferring woodland and savanna. It exclusively eats flying insects, especially beetles, doing most of its foraging at dusk and a few hours before sunrise. It stays here for about a half a year, most of the birds have left by the end of April.

Caprimulgus fossii (Square-tailed nightjar, Mozambique nightjar) 

The Square-tailed nightjar is occurs across Africa south of the Sahel semi-desert, preferring open areas with sandy soil, such as Acacia savanna, miombo woodland, etc. It is insectivorous, feeding mainly on beetles, grasshoppers and moths. It mainly hunts just after sunset, searching for prey from a low perch, then hawking any insect that passes by. It nests in shallow, natural depressions in sandy soil or fine gravel, usually in bare, open areas with little vegetation, such as cultivated fields. It lays 1-2, usually 2 eggs, which are incubated mainly by the female for about 14-17 days. The chicks can walk around soon after hatching, becoming fully independent after a month or two of parental care.

Caprimulgus natalensis (Swamp nightjar, Natal nightjar) 

Caprimulgus pectoralis (Fiery-necked nightjar) 

The Fiery-necked nightjar occupies a large area of Africa south of the equator, avoiding extremely arid areas, mainly occurring in well-developed woodland with dense leaf litter. It is insectivorous, feeding mainly on beetles and moths, usually hunting at dawn or dusk. The nest is a simple depression in the ground, usually in and surrounded by leaf litter. Here it usually lays 2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 18-19 days. The chicks are cared for by both parents, and can fly strongly at about 17-18 days old. The parents usually desert their territory and chicks when they reach 30 days old, however the brood still live there for up to 150 days more before leaving.

Caprimulgus rufigena (Rufous-cheeked nightjar) 

The Rufous-cheeked nightjar is common in large parts of southern Africa, being especially populous in Botswana and South Africa. It is an intra-African migrant, breeding in southern Africa and moving to north at the end of the breeding season. It lives in a variety of habitats, ranging from Kalahari savanna to open woodland and the Karoo. It eats exclusively insects, hunting near waterholes at dusk. It nests in natural, shallow depressions in coarse soil, where the lay 1-2 eggs at 48h intervals, the second always being larger and heavier than the first. It incubates them for 15-17 days, after which the chicks hatch. They are fed and brooded by the male at dusk, freeing up the female to feed. The stay in the nest for 15-17 days.

Caprimulgus tristigma (Freckled nightjar) 

The Freckled nightjar occurs in localized populations across sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is scarce in the western half of the region, but is however much more common in the eastern Half, especially in Zimbabwe. It roosts and nests on rocks, and can actually tolerate surface temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade! It feeds mainly on beetles and moths, and has the largest gape of any nightjar, and is capable of swallowing 3.5 cm long insects whole. It nests in natural hollows in rocks, where it lays 2 eggs, which are incubated for 18-20 days by both sexes. The chicks are cared for by both parents, and are camouflaged so that they blend in with the surrounding rock.

Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar)