1 minute read

Nightjars: Caprimulgidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Nightjars spend the daytime roosting, sitting quietly in trees. Many species are nocturnal, meaning that they are active at night. Some species are crepuscular (kri-PUS-kyuh-lur), starting their activities at twilight, the time between sunset and darkness. During active times, nightjars hunt for food, eat, and mate. Nightjars are noisy at night. Males sometimes call to attract females, while other calls are territorial songs to warn other birds to stay away from a location.

The start of the breeding season depends on when there is a large amount of insects to feed young birds. In most climates, there are fewer insects during winter months, so breeding takes place in the spring or summer. Females of some species breed twice during the season and have two broods (sets of young).

Most nightjar species are monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus). Some species mate for life. In other species, male and female stay together for the breeding season.

Nightjars do not build nests. Females lay one to two eggs on the ground or in a tree branch. They incubate the eggs, sitting on them to keep them warm. Males of some species also help with incubation. Eggs hatch in seventeen to twenty-one days, and in some species, both parents feed chicks. The young fledge, grow feathers, in about two weeks. Two weeks later, the birds are able to fly and feed themselves.

Nightjars are hunted by predators including owls, crows, hawks, foxes, rats, and snakes. To make it difficult for predators to see them, the birds take advantage of their coloration and remain motionless, perched in trees, during the daytime.


Many nightjars have whisker-like bristles around their mouths, but opinion is divided about why the birds have bristles. Some researchers think that the bristles help the birds capture prey while flying by helping to push insects into nightjars' mouths. Others disagree with that explanation, saying the bristles may protect the nightjars' eyes from being injured by prey struggling to escape.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsNightjars: Caprimulgidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Whip-poor-will (caprimulgus Vociferus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, NIGHTJARS AND PEOPLE