Australian Owlet-Nightjar: 21 Facts You Won't Believe!

Devangana Rathore
Nov 01, 2022 By Devangana Rathore
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Discover a range of fun Australian owlet-nightjar facts and information to know more about these feathered friends.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.9 Min

The Australian owlet-nightjar is a species of nocturnal bird. Found living in various Australian forests, as well as shrubs and tall trees in New Guinea, it is regarded as the smallest nocturnal bird in the country. The bird is primarily seen spending their days snuggled up in tree hollows and other holes made in tall trees, roosting. It is only at night when they emerge and this is mostly to hunt. Australian owlet-nightjars are carnivorous in nature and feed on small animals such as rats and mice, and occasionally catch snakes too. Australian owlet nightjars are nocturnal birds, but they do not belong to any species of owls.

If you don't want to search around for fun facts like the Australian owlet-nightjar wingspan, their lifespan, feeding, and breeding habits, then we have compiled the perfect guide for you to scroll through! Want to diversify your knowledge base and learn more about other interesting birds? Then check out the Amazon parrot and the blue jay.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Australian owlet-nightjar?

The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is a type of nocturnal bird.

What class of animal does an Australian owlet-nightjar belong to?

The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) belongs to the class of birds (Aves) and is part of the Aegothelidae family.

How many Australian owlet-nightjars are there in the world?

The estimated population range of Australian owlet-nightjars in the world is unknown because they camouflage so well and only emerge at night to search for food.

Where does an Australian owlet-nightjar live?

These nocturnal birds live in the woods. The Australian owlet-nightjars can be found throughout Australia, the Australian Islands, and southern New Guinea. They are commonly spotted in arid regions, particularly during summer.

What is an Australian owlet-nightjar's habitat?

Usually, the habitat of Australian owlet-nightjars is in regions with suitably tall tree hollows, which they utilize for roosting and nesting. Dense woods, open woodland, grasslands, mangrove swamps, and mallee brush are their natural habitats. Unlike their kin, these birds prefer dry, exposed regions to nest. However, a few birds of this species can and do survive in the more humid habitats of New Guinea and Queensland. Australian owlet-nightjars are commonly found in regions with an abundance of tall trees. These birds live within the hollow tree trunks and prefer nesting and roosting during the day.

Who do Australian owlet-nightjars live with?

The sedentary owlet-nightjar roosts in its hollow, usually alone. They form pairs during the breeding season. Since these birds raise one brood each season, they might be found living with a young chick every year.

How long does an Australian owlet-nightjar live?

The longevity of an Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is unknown. Although some sources consider the average lifespan of the bird to be around 5 - 6 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season generally starts in late winter. Their nesting sites are normally found in suitable tree hollows or rock crevices. Green leaves are commonly used to line nests. Australian owlet-nightjar adults form permanent pairs. Clutches are usually made up of three to four slightly glossy, stiff white eggs incubated by the female. Each season, the pairs normally raise one brood. Local egg-laying occurs over a period of two months, while the time of laying eggs is estimated to range anywhere between August and December. The young are fed and protected by both the parent birds. Both parents are responsible for building the nest and nurturing the children. When the young are 21-32 days old, they depart the nest. Another nocturnal predator called the ghost bat preys on this species.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is tagged - Least Concern, as listed by the IUCN Red List.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Fun Facts

What do Australian owlet-nightjars look like?

Two-color morphs and a transitional form have been observed among the species of Australian owlet-nightjar. Grey morphs have a gray back with a whitish barred front, and distinct, pale black stripes on the head. The plumage of the rufous morph is a blend of brown and paler colors. The plumage of the species of owlet-nightjars that live in desert regions appear darker than those of the forest and woodland dwellers. Except for a few transitional males, this color phase is only seen in North Australian groups of female owlet-nightjars. Females also exhibit more pronounced rufous coloring.

Two broad black stripes run from the peak of the eyes over the head, joining on the back. Males and females are nearly identical, except for the rufous-morph female. Their wings are short and pointed. The tail is curved and lengthy. The bill is small, but it spreads wide and is encircled by whiskers. A unique feature of these nocturnal birds is that Australian owlet-nightjars have big, non-reflective eyes. Immature birds usually look similar to adults, although their black markings appear less distinct.

The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is the tiniest of all night birds observed in Australia and is also known as the moth owl, savanna owlet-nightjar, or owlet-nightjar.

How cute are they?

The tiniest of the night birds in Australia resembles a sugar glider. Australian owlet-nightjars are small, feathery birds with large, dark, and distinctive eyes. Anyone would love to stare and marvel at them.

How do they communicate?

Owlet-nightjars have a wide range of bird calls, and the most common calls are a sequence of gentle churring and whistling notes. The calls of this species are one of the most common noises heard in the Australian wilderness at night. Other sounds like snarling calls are used to defend territories. Hissing calls are produced by this night bird when anticipates a threat while roosting in tree hollows.

How big is an Australian owlet-nightjar?

The average length of owlet nightjars, a nocturnal bird of Australia, is about 8.3 - 10 in (21 - 25.4 cm). It is the smallest bird in the family of Australian nightjars.

How fast can an Australian owlet-nightjar fly?

No sources provide a specific measure of the flight speed of an Australian owlet-nightjar. However, they are considered to be fairly fast due to their small, light bodies. The choice of habitats further implies that these birds usually fly in short spans.

How much does an Australian owlet-nightjar weigh?

The weight of the native owlet-nightjars of Australia is expected to be around 1.4-2.1 oz (39.6 - 59.5 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female birds of this species of Australia have no special name.

What would you call a baby Australian owlet-nightjar?

There is not any specific term for infant owlet-nightjars in Australia. Similar to other baby birds, they are commonly called chicks.

What do they eat?

In the flycatcher style, the Australian owlet-nightjar feeds during the night by swooping from perches and catching insects from the airspace, ground, branches, and trunks. It can also feed on the wings of insects it preys on. The diet of an Australian owlet-nightjar usually comprises a variety of insects, including beetles, ants, spiders, caterpillars, millipedes, ants, bugs, and grasshoppers. During the daytime, the bird nests and roosts in suitable tree hollows, especially to defend itself against predators.

Are they poisonous?

This bird is widespread throughout Australia and is not poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

The owlet-nightjars can be found in abundance throughout Australia and its islands. These birds are not suitable as pets. These birds are accustomed to living in the forest world, preferably in a habitat comprising open woodlands. Being birds that only come out at night, raising them as a pet can be harmful.

Did you know...

The Australian owlet-nightjar, family Aegothelidae, is Australia's tiniest nocturnal bird, with wide brown eyes. Unlike most other nocturnal birds, their eyes do not glow red if exposed to a light source at night or in any dark place.

The griffon vulture has a widespread distribution, including North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, from India to Portugal and Spain, and is most widely found throughout Mediterranean countries. They have a bad sense of smell and must rely exclusively on their vision to obtain food.

How did the Australian owlet-nightjar get its name?

Any bird in the family of long-winged, dusky, nocturnal birds with small bills, short legs, and velvety mottled plumage that feeds on bugs; is called a nightjar. The Australian owlet-nightjar is named so because it fits every aspect of the description. They are also called owlets due to having similar features to an owl.

Are Australian owlet-nightjars endangered?

The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is not an endangered species. The species is widespread across Australia but prefers to remain hidden. However, deforestation and the loss of forest cover will eventually impact owlet-nightjar populations.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out tawny owl facts and harpy eagle facts for kids.

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

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Written by Devangana Rathore

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana Rathore picture

Devangana RathoreBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language, Master of Philosophy

Devangana is a highly accomplished content writer and a deep thinker with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, Dublin. With a wealth of experience in copywriting, she has worked with The Career Coach in Dublin and is constantly looking to enhance her skills through online courses from some of the world's leading universities. Devangana has a strong background in computer science and is also an accomplished editor and social media manager. Her leadership skills were honed during her time as the literacy society president and student president at the University of Delhi.

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