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Montane Nightjar - BirdForum Opus

Includes Rwenzori Nightjar
Alternative names: Abyssinian Nightjar; Mountain Nightjar

Caprimulgus poliocephalus


22-24 cm.

  • Greyish-brown upperparts streaked blackish-brown, broadly streaked on central crown
  • Broad buff or tawny-buff nuchal collar
  • Greyish-brown wing-coverts, speckled greyish-white and spotted pale buff
  • Blackish-brown scapulars, broadly edged buff
  • White throat patch and whitish submoustachial stripe
  • Greyish-brown underparts, speckled and spotted buff, greyish-white and cinnamon, becoming buff barred brown on belly and flanks
  • Male with white spots on four outermost primaries, two outermost tail feathers generally white
  • Female with smaller white wing spots, edged or washed buff and less white in tail
  • ssp from Central Africa (formerly regarded as full species) are darker and have smaller white wing spots and less white on outer tail feathers.

Immatures are paler than adults and often more rufous.

Similar species

Darker and browner than Fiery-necked Nightjar.


Africa: found from south-western Saudi Arabia to Eastern and Central Africa south to Zambia.
Locally common in its range.



Three to four subspecies are recognized which were formerly split into two species:[1]

  • C. p. poliocephalus
  • C. p. ruwenzorii
  • C. p. guttifer
  • C. p. koesteri

Formerly split into two species: Abyssinian (or Montane) Nightjar (poliocephalus) and Ruwenzori (or Montane) Nightjar (ruwenzorii, guttifer and koesteri). Forms a superspecies with Fiery-necked Nightjar.


Forest edges and interior of different types of montane woodland and forest, also in large wooded suburban garden and rocky terrain with juniper forest.
Occurs at 1000-3350 m.



Feeds on moths, beetles and grasshoppers.
Forages by hawking for prey above fields and pastures, in open woodlands and large suburban gardens. Has an extremely agile and rapid flight. Feeds also in insects attracted to artifical lights and fires.


Poorly known. A monogamous and territorial species. Nests in small clearings at or near base of a tree or a bush. No nest built, the eggs are laid on bare ground or on leaf litter. Lays normally 2 eggs.


Probably sedentary in Africa. May move to lower altitudes in winter in Saudi Arabia.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.1)_red. Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.1. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Del Hoyo, J, A Elliot, and J Sargatal, eds. 1999. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 5: Barn-Owls to Hummingbirds. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-8487334252

Recommended Citation

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