Male and Sphinx ligustri

© Copyright: Images: M. & W. von Wright (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Caprimulgus europaeus

  • Name also: European Nightjar
  • Family: Nightjars – Caprimulgidae
  • Appearance: Nocturnal birds with striking grey, black and brown patterned plumage and long sharp-tipped wings. Most often noticed due to prolonged whirring courtship call. Feeds on insects during silent and agile darting flights.
  • Size: Length 24–28 cm, wingspan 52–59 cm, weight 56–85 g.
  • Nest: A shallow depression on bare ground, with no nest material used.
  • Breeding: 2-3 eggs laid May–June, incubated by both parents for 16–18 days. Young birds learn to fly within 14–30 days.
  • Occurrence: Breeds in sparsely wooded pine forests and rocky areas in Central and Southern Finland. Finnish breeding population estimated at 3,000–5,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Leaves Finland August–October, returning May–June. Winters in East Africa and Southern Africa.
  • Diet: Moths.
  • Calls: A persistent whirring call often made for long periods of up to several hours. May make loud wing claps in flight.

The Nightjar is the only member of its family found in Finland. Nightjars are thrush-sized nocturnal birds with long tails and long sharp-tipped wings. Nightjars have strikingly patterned grey, black, brown and rust-coloured plumage. Males have white patches near their wingtips and on the edges of their tails. Nightjars’ very large eyes have dark brown irises. Their small feet remain invisible beneath their chest feathers, but their toes are brown. Their dark brown beaks are very small, but open widely to reveal an amazingly wide gape lined with bristles that grow from their beaks.

Nightjars trust their excellent camouflage by day and remain still and almost invisible while resting on a tree bough or a fallen tree trunk. On cold nights that may go into temporary hibernation.

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