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I Dream Africa

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Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds with long wings, short legs and very short bills that usually nest on the ground. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves. There are 86 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Namibia and as all these are Caprimulgus family, all have the same description.

Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus

The European Nightjar, or just Nightjar, Caprimulgus europaeus, is the only representative of the nightjar family of birds in most of Europe and temperate Asia.

It is a late migrant, seldom appearing before the end of April or beginning of May. It occurs throughout northern and central Europe, and winters in Africa, as far south as the Cape.

In southern Europe, and the warmer parts of Africa and Asia, it is replaced by other members of the nightjar family. In Great Britain and Ireland it occurs in many suitable localities, but in the Shetlands and other northern islands it is only known as an occasional migrant. It is a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Open heathy wastes, Lowland heath, bracken-covered slopes and open woods are the haunts of the crepuscular Nightjar.

The plumage of the adult Nightjar is lichen-grey, barred and streaked with buff, chestnut and black. The under parts are barred. White spots on primaries and white tips to the outer tail feathers are characters of the male; in the young male these are buff. The bill is black, the legs reddish brown.

The variegated plumage resembles that of the Wryneck, its wide gape and long wings are like a swift’s, and its soft downy plumage and nocturnal habits are akin to an owls. The length is 26 cm, and the wingspan 55 cm.

The male may be told from the female by the white spots on his wings and tail, and as he gracefully floats above her, with wings upraised at a sharp angle, he spreads his tail wide to show the white spots. On the ground both birds will swing the tail from side to side when excited. The Nightjar does not hunt with open mouth, as often depicted, but the huge gape opens wide for large crepuscular insects, such as noctuid moths and dor-beetles, which are snapped up with avidity. Crepuscular insects are its food.

Its song, from which it derives some of its common names, is a strange churring trill and is the surest means of identification. Its soft mechanical trill rises and falls as it vibrates on the variable evening breeze, or as the bird turns its head from side to side. The lower mandible vibrates and the throat is distended until the feathers stand out.
When it churrs the bird lies or crouches along a bough or rail, but it will sing from a post, and occasionally perch across a branch.

When on the wing it has a soft call, and a sharper and repeated alarm, cuick, cuick, but during courtship, and occasionally at other times, it uses a mechanical signal, a sharp cracking sound, caused by clapping the wings together over the back.

The Nightjar flies at dusk, most often at sundown, a long-tailed, shadowy form with easy, silent moth-like flight; it's strong and deliberate wingbeats alternate with graceful sweeps and wheels with motionless wings.

During the day it lies silent upon the ground, often on a heap of stones, concealed by its plumage; it is difficult to detect, looking like a bit of lichen-covered twig or a fragment of bark. With eyes almost closed it watches through tiny slits, rising suddenly, sometimes with a croak of alarm, but usually silently, when almost stepped on.
Nightjars forage from dusk until dawn, catching moths and other large flying insects

Rufous-cheeked Nightjar Caprimulgus rufigena

The Rufous-cheeked Nightjar (Caprimulgus rufigena) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Fiery-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus pectoralis

The Fiery-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus pectoralis) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

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 name based on an erroneous view of the European Nightjar's feeding habits.

Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis

The Swamp Nightjar (Caprimulgus natalensis) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma

The Freckled Nightjar (Caprimulgus tristigma) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Square-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus fossii

The Square-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus fossii) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Pennant-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx vexillarius

The Pennant-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx vexillarius, is an intra-African migrant that occurs from Nigeria to northern South Africa. The male is characteristic in having a broad white band over the otherwise black primaries. In addition the males acquire a striking 9th primary feather during the breeding season. These pennants grow to greater lengths in successive years, up to twice the body length. They are dropped or broken off quickly upon completion of breeding. With the distal (1st) and proximal (7th to 9th) primaries being longest, the wings of male birds are distinctly angular.

Their preferred habitat south of the equator is plateau woodlands, especially Miombo, where they are partial to stony or boulder-strewn hillsides. They are observed as bi-annual and social passage migrants along the Kenyan Rift Valley and Lake Victoria regions, and spend the non-breeding season in subtropical savanna from Nigeria to Sudan.

Foraging birds emerge in the late afternoon or directly after sunset for crepuscular feeding and are once again active before sunrise. Their diet includes a variety of insects although scarab beetles are favoured. They drink while flying slowly over a water surface. The roost and nest are on bare ground, sometimes among leaf litter. When disturbed they may perch lengthwise on a branch, reminiscent of the similar-sized European Nightjar.

Breeding takes place from spring to early summer while south of the equator. Males have separate display territories and attract passing females with an insect-like song. Males furthermore engage in display flights, low through woodland or at great height, wherein they may be joined by receptive females. Egg-laying coincides with the full moon. By mid-summer some birds start returning to the northern hemisphere.

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