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Swamp Nightjar - BirdForum Opus

Alternative names: African White-tailed Nightjar; Natal Nightjar

Caprimulgus natalensis


20-24 cm. A sexually dimorphic nightjar. Variable in coloration, most are brown, greyish-brown or buffish-brown.

  • Greyish-brown or brown upperparts, heavily spotted with large dark brown marks on wing-coverts, scapulars and tertials
  • Indistinct pale buff or buff nuchal collar
  • White throat patch
  • Brown underparts, heavily spotted buffish-white or buff, becoming buff barred brown on belly.
  • Male with large white spot on four outermost primaries and extensively white two outermost tail feathers
  • Female with buffish or pale tawny wing spots and narrow buffish-white tips to tail feathers
  • accrae is darker, plainer and smaller

Immatures are similar to adults but more spotted on upperparts.


Patchily distributed in West, Central, East and Southern Africa.
Rare to locally common in its range.


Two subspecies recognized:

More described subspecies (chadensis, gabonensis, fulviventris, carpi and mpusa) are usually not recognized.


Found in wet or damp habitats, grassland, meadows, swamps, marshes, bogs and dambos, vleis and lagoon edges. In West Africa also in damp grassy clearings in forest.
Occurs from sea-level up to 2200m.



Feeds on termites, moths, bugs and beetles.
Forages flying low over ground around termite hills, pastures and cattle pens.


Breeding season differs through range. A monogamous species. Builds no nest. 2 eggs are laid on the ground in long grass at edge of marsh or on sandy riverbank.


Not well documented. Both races are probably sedentary, however some local movements occur.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, B.L. Sullivan, C. L. Wood, and D. Roberson. 2013. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.8., with updates to August 2013. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. 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

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