Nightjar  birds 

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Nightjar are medium sized birds from a family of night-flying aerial insectivores found around the world. They are nocturnal, are sedentary and mostly silent other than the time when they need to carry out that daily ritual of calling. Crepuscular is the appropriate word to describe their habit - most active at the time of falling lights i.e. dusk and dawn and that is the time that the bird is most active and doing their longest duration of calls. Have noticed that bird do call sporadically throughout the night. through have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their plumage is cryptically colored to resemble bark or leaves

 Nightjars forage through the night catching moths and other large flying insects

They are seldom seen perching on branches in daylight hours but if they do as one one my pictures shows, some may choose to perch along a branch, rather than across it. A strategy in reducing their obvious presence.

Because the bird's nocturnal habit, Nightjars were involved in superstitious beliefs around the world. There are tales about the bird - like drawing out milk from the cows, making the cows going blind eventually. Then in another where the bird's calls were signals that they are intending to pull eyes out of humans.

They prefer areas which are flat, barren except scrubby vegetation and the occasional taller tree with broad leaves to 'churr' from. The appearances of a crouching bird blend in well with the brown leaves that has gathered at the base of the tree. Another good scenario would be plantations that had cleared trees leaving vast open ground. In this situation, the insects are in abundance looking for new homes and the bird too having clear view with plenty of good perches and dried leaves on the ground to choose from as resting sites.

It is hard to spot Nightjars in daylight hours as they don't fly. Then if perched on the ground, they are well camouflaged to mislead visual detection. Most of the time they remain motionless on the ground. Depending so heavily of the fact that their feather patterns blending in well with the colors of the dead leaves or patterns on old tree bark. Then by night the bird is crouched along a bough of a prominent tree, would be 'churring', from that well positioned spot. There are other favorite perches beside a bough of the tree, like electric wire or sometimes from the top of a post. Only at times when perched in the open that their silhouettes can be picked out against the night sky. The Savanna Nightjar is more an active flier. The birds have the habit of swooping and flapping around their territories, very visible against the poorly lighted sky in a dark environment.

Typical of ground nesting birds, nightjars have their nests attacked by predators such as Mynas, crows, magpies and Tree-shrews. But the birds had learnt well and could choose sites that would reduce these risks to the minimal. The main threat to the species comes from loss of habitat and also insecticides reduces the moth population in the area, thereby their food sources. The birds do leave their nest to places which are a few kilometers for their food.

The Nightjars lay 2 eggs an have some habits that I could not understand. The eggs were left unattended when the birds leaves the nest in the daytime. Why did the bird have the need to leave the nest when they normally do not forage at in the day? The other behavior seen was the bird badly drenched in heavy rain yet remained to shelter the eggs.

Had seen the chicks hatched and some observations. In one incidence the chicks disappeared after a couple of days assumed the nest was raided. But now I read that the chicks though still in downs could be relocated to another spot. There were other nesting incidents with chicks reaching the stage of having the downs changed into feathers.

Here is the table showing the species of Nightjars that we should be seeing in Malaysia

 

Malaysian Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus temminckii
Great Eared Nightjar Eurostopodus macrotis

&

Grey Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus
Large-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus macrurus
Savanna Nightjar Caprimulgus affinis

 

There are "Eared Nightjars" and typical "Nightjars" and not easily encountered.

 In this page I am dealing with the latter. Worldwide there are 68 species from this family and out which 4 are to be found in South-east Asia. In Malaysia we should be able to see 3 of them.

 

Large-tailed Nightjar  Caprimulgus macrurus

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 33 Cm. This Nightjar is 33 cm long Overall the bird is pale brown rows of short stripes on the wings in darker brown Rather difficult to describe its color other than looking at the pictures

 Distribution :-  The bird is native in North-eastern Pakistan, that region of India, south China, the Sundas and northern Australia. The bird is also a common resident in Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird is a lowland bird choosing flat open country with short tuft of grasses and low scrubs.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Look for vast waste land, needs not be large acres, could be size of football fields.
 My personal jottings :-

 I find that golf course and cemetery are good potential resting places for the bird. A good tip would be to be attentive to its calls in the evening. Places with regular calls promise that the birds, usually a few could be resting nearby. I have counted the maximum of 13 birds roosting in a abandoned housing lot of less than half an acre size. It was bare in the centre and fringes by Acasia Magium trees. A very conducive place with the golf course just next a stone throw away. The birds were either at the base of the trees or among the low scrubs of Melastoma plants. This situation went on for 2 seasons. Most important criteria was the centre of this land bare. Later the Melastoma grew larger and thicker, the birds left this paradise that they once loved.

 

Hear the Long-tailed Nightjar's call :-    and Videos:-

 

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 1

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 2

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 3

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 4

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 5

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 6

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 7

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 8

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 9

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 10

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 11

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 12

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 13

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 14

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 15

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 16

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 17

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 18

Large-tailed Nightjar  # 19

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 20

Large-tailed Nightjar   # 21

 

Savanna Nightjar  Caprimulgus affinis affinis

 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- 25 Cm. The size of the Savanna Nightjar is about 25 cm, a much smaller bird when compared to the Large-tailed. Unlike the patches of the Large-tailed Nightjar, this bird has uniform vermiculated brownish gray upper part [ some small patches at the end of wing feathers] and the same in lighter shade on the under part.

 Distribution :-  The Savanna Nightjar is native in North Pakistan, Indian sub-continent and then south China to the Sundas and Phillipines.
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland open country bird that prefers sandy ground with some grasses and plenty of dried leaves. This time Pine trees and piles of dried needle spines is among the bird's top choice.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Though not proven but I still think that the open ground of gold courses is their favorite.
 My personal jottings :-

 I feel that my experiences though gathered some is not enough to confirm a pattern. All I can say is that during dawn and after twilight the birds would be flying around and calling. This signifies that there are Nightjars roosting in the area.

Their habitats would be shady low trees as frontage to a wide open area. Unlike the Large-tailed Nightjar who would be squatting amidst a ple of broad fallen leaves, Savanna loves to be isolated on an empty ground perhaps with some other debrises not so near. the designs on the body feathers bleand in well with texture of the ground they have chosen.

 

 

Sample of bird's call :-    and Video:-

Savanna Nightjar  # 1

Savanna Nightjar   # 2

Savanna Nightjar   # 3

Savanna Nightjar   # 4

Savanna Nightjar   # 5

Savanna Nightjar   # 6

Savanna Nightjar   # 7

Savanna Nightjar  # 8

Savanna Nightjar   # 9

Savanna Nightjar   # 10

Savanna Nightjar  # 11

Savanna Nightjar   # 12

Savanna Nightjar   # 13

Savanna Nightjar  # 14

Savanna Nightjar   # 15

Savanna Nightjar   # 16

Savanna Nightjar  # 17

Savanna Nightjar   # 18

Savanna Nightjar   # 19

Savanna Nightjar  # 20

Savanna Nightjar   # 21

 

It is not easy to meet up with Nightjars and have pictures taken in daylight hours. Then again, if a roosting site is stumbled upon, the amount of useable pictures that I can make is also limited. The Subject in this case a Nightjar bird hardly moves or change its position of rest. Just like making pictures on an ornate object.

Time will help and  I still have videos from the early years made of the resting sites for the large tail. Well, the quality standard of the videos were of that prevailing era.

I have put on schedule more videos from the Savanna Night jars. Keep logging in for updates Thanks.