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European Nightjar - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Eurasian Nightjar
Includes Vaurie's Nightjar

Photo © by picus
Carmine Bivio, Italy, June 2006
Caprimulgus europaeus


Presumably a female due to lack of white primary patch
Photo © by Digiscoper321
West Sweden, May 2018

24·5–28 cm (9½-11 in)

  • Plumage is heavily streaked with buff, chestnut and black
  • Underparts are barred
  • White areas on primaries and outer tail feathers
  • Black bill
  • Legs: reddish brown

Female similar, but lacks the white spots on wings and tail.
In the Juvenile these areas are buff.


Widespread summer visitor to much of the region. Breeds in Ireland (rare) and southern Britain. In the north reaches south-east Norway and southern parts of Sweden and Finland, and across Russia north to about 62 degrees N. Also breeds south to Morocco to Tunisia in North-West Africa and along the Mediterranean and on most larger islands, throughout Turkey and the Caucasus. East of there, range goes east to eastern Mongolia and China. Range patchy and discontinuous in much of North-Western Europe and still in decline in many areas.

Begins to leave breeding areas in late July, by early October most have left for sub-Saharan Africa (this includes even birds breeding in east Asia). The spring return movement is mainly April-May, rarely earlier.

Vagrant north to Iceland and Faroes, and west to the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands.


Genetic analysis of the sole specimen of Vaurie's Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus, known from a 1960 specimen from western Xinjiang, strongly suggests that this is not a separate species, but instead is an example of European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus; it has therefore been lumped into the present species. 'Vaurie's Nightjar' probably represents an example of subspecies plumipes, but it can not be assigned to any specific subspecies of Eurasian Nightjar based on the available data[3].


Several subspecies occur in the Region differing slightly in size, ground colour and amount of white in wings of male. Other less differentiated races are found in the east of the Region but there is much intergradation and variation occurs within, as well as between, races.

There are 6 subspecies[1]:

  • C. e. europaeus:
  • Northern and central Europe to northern Asia and Lake Baikal area; winters to Africa
  • C. e. meridionalis: generally smaller and paler
  • C. e. sarudnyi:
  • Eastern side of Caspian Sea (Kazakstan) to Altai Mountains
  • C. e. unwini:
  • C. e. plumipes:
  • C. e. dementievi:
  • North-eastern Mongolia and southern Transbaikalia


Dry open woodland and woodland edge, usually pine but also birch or oak, heathland and moorland with scattered trees, young forestry plantations and chalk downland. In some areas found on stony steppe country with sparse vegetation.




Ground nesters.


Hawks for moths and other night-flying insects.



  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Cleere, N., D. A. Christie, and P. C. Rasmussen (2021). Eurasian Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (P. C. Rasmussen, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.eurnig1.01.1
  3. Schweizer et al. 2020 A molecular analysis of the mysterious Vaurie’s Nightjar Caprimulgus centralasicus yields fresh insight into its taxonomic status

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.