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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 16, 2021

Nightjar: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Here are some nightjars facts that will amuse you.

Nightjars are a family of birds that have about 70 species. These birds are night-dwellers or are nocturnal, similar to owls but not related. They are meek and live their lives camouflaging with their habitat. Camouflaging is made very easy by their brown colored feathers or plumage that blends perfectly with the ground on which they live. They also have bristles on the side of the mouth and long wings, which make them an absolutely spectacular sight.

One of the most magnificent features of these birds is their large eyes and how tactfully they are placed in order to give our tiny friends wide vision!

When it comes to habitat, these animals are found in many parts of the world such as North America, South America, and Europe. They also migrate during the winter which gives everyone the chance to bask in their beauty! If you are lucky enough, you might come by a nightjar as you take a walk in a forest clearing someday.

For more relatable content, check out these common nighthawk facts and red owl facts for kids.

Nightjar Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a nightjar?

The nightjar is a family of birds that is found almost all around the world in variable numbers. There are various species of nightjars with many different beautiful names.

What class of animal does a nightjar belong to?

The class that nightjars are associated with in scientific terms is Aves, however, we popularly classify them as birds.

How many nightjars are there in the world?

While we do not have a definite number for the population of nightjar birds, it is known that since their conservation status is of Least Concern, these beautiful birds are fairly large in number.

Where do nightjars live?

Nightjar birds prefer to live in woodlands, clearings, and felled conifer forests as it easy for them to camouflage in such environments. They are not a nesting family and during the daytime, they sleep amongst leaves and debris in a way that it becomes hard to spot them.

What is a nightjar's habitat?

The habitat of nightjars is pretty widespread. These birds are found in North America, South America, and Europe. They also migrate during the winter to places such as Africa.

Who do nightjars live with?

Nightjars and its different species such as European nightjars (Caprimulgus europaeus) are not known to be a colonial species. The birds live in close proximity with each other, but not in large groups.

How long do nightjars live?

The lifespan of an average nightjar is of around 12 years.

How do they reproduce?

Nightjars are oviparous which means that they reproduce by laying eggs. Nightjars do not make nests, but they instead breed and roost on the ground. During the breeding season, the male nightjar can be seen performing elaborate courting acts such as a dive after they reach a certain height in flight and a churring call. Not only is such an act an absolute treat to human eyes, even the female nightjar is wooed by the charm.

The female nightjar lays about two eggs on the ground, and both parents incubate the eggs for about 20 days. However, the female takes the most responsibility when it comes to incubation. After the eggs hatch, the baby nightjar birds are ready to fledge in about 20 days.

When not incubating the eggs or feeding the children, the parent nightjar roosts away from its mate.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN, the conservation status of the nightjar bird family is Least Concern, while some species like the Puerto Rican nightjar is Endangered. Most species have a stable population and their habitat faces no threat of degradation.

Nightjar Fun Facts

What do nightjars look like?

The nightjar bird species or the North American whip-poor wills have features that are pretty easy to recognize if you are lucky enough to spot them at the sites where they roost. This bird family and its look-alikes such as nighthawks and the collared nightjar have a brown colored body which is speckled in black and buff colors in a way that they are almost one with their surroundings.

The nightjar bird family is also characterized by its long wings and camouflaging plumage. The build of a nightjar's body is such that it resembles a kestrel or a yellow-billed cuckoo. These birds also have a small bill that is adapted so that they can catch any insects very easily. They also have straight bristles on either sides of theirs mouths which benefits them in ingesting large worms. They have large eyes which are placed so that they have wide vision.

Their short legs are not much use and honestly, it is quite cute to watch these birds awkwardly hopping around on their tiny feet.

The male nightjar courts the female during breeding season by performing a dive in flight.

How cute are they?

It is hardly a surprise that we think that nightjar birds are heart-warmingly cute! Their small body, large wings, and beautiful plumage makes them a rather pretty sight to behold.

How do they communicate?

Nightjar birds have a beautiful call that can be heard only in the night due to their nocturnal nature. The nightjar sounds somewhat melodious and chirpy as it flies at night in search of food or for finding the next sites for nesting.

How big is a nightjar?

North American whip-poor wills or nighthawks from the family Caprimulgidae can come in various sizes in the range of 6-16 in (15-40 cm).

How fast can nightjars fly?

The speed of nightjars and its different species such as the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) is not known. However, the fact that flying insects are their main food indicates that they are speedy flyers. Nightjars migrate towards Africa during the winter months.

How much does a nightjar weigh?

The weight of an average European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), whip-poor will, or collared nightjar is around 0.7-6.6 oz (20-188 g). To give you a better perspective, northern spotted owls weigh more than four times than these nocturnal birds.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no distinct names for male and female nightjars or whip-poor wills. We can simply refer to them as a male nightjar and a female nightjar.

What would you call a baby nightjar?

Like in the case of other bird species, young nightjars are called nestlings for the duration that they do not fledge.

What do they eat?

All nightjars sleep during the daytime and feed during the night. They feed on insects such as click beetles and grasshoppers. The young ones are fed by their parents for about 20 days after they hatch out of the eggs.

Are they dangerous?

It is safe to say that the nightjar bird family is not at all dangerous. They are fairly meek animals that spend their days camouflaged. There have been no incidents where they have seemed to cause harm to other bird species or humans.

Would they make a good pet?

While they are not a usual choice when it comes to having pets, they are amiable enough to consider if you would like to have an off-beat pet. However, they are a wild animal so it is better to try and spot one in the wild.

Did you know...

The nightjar bird is known to be nocturnal which means that it is active during the night.

These birds are found in North America and northeastern South America.

Nightjars are sometimes called goatsuckers because in folklore they drank milk from goats, and also they are called bugeaters because they eat a diet mainly of insects.

Owls and nightjars are not related and the main difference between the two species is that owls are raptors and catch their prey using talons, while nightjars catch their prey using their beaks.

What are the different types of nightjars?

Some of the different types of nightjars are the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), nighthawks, whip-poor wills and the collared nightjar.

What does the nightjar's call sound like?

The nightjar's call is called a 'churring' noise as it is pretty disrupted and whoosh-y. A call has nearly 1900 notes a minute!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our great potted woodpecker facts and belted kingfisher facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Indian nightjar coloring pages.

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