European Nightjar

Caprimulgus europaeus Linnaeus, 1758

Class: Aves – Order: Caprimulgiformes - Family: Caprimulgidae

Status: Natura 2000 Code: A224. This species is listed in Annex I of the Wild Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and in Appendix II of the Bern Convention. On the Red Italian List, this population is classified as "Least Concern" (LC).

Distribution: This species may be found throughout Europe, North Africa, and Western and Central Asia. During the winter, it moves to Africa and the northwest of India. It is spread throughout the Italian peninsula, where it arrives every year during spring and departs again in autumn.  Rarely, some individuals remain for the winter.

Morphology: It is a medium-sized bird, with a flattened head. Its beak is wide and surrounded by tiny feathers, while its legs are small. Its plumage is gray and brownish and streaked with light colors. Its wings are long and narrow, and the males have some light streaks on them. It sings from dusk to dawn, producing a song similar to a rattle.

Habitat and Ecology: It prefers woodlands where clearings alternate with denser areas. Generally, it avoids woods with deciduous plants. It has crepuscular and nocturnal habits, so it flies quickly and safely along the groves, searching for moths and other nocturnal insects or beetles, which make up its usual food. Its prey is completely swallowed by its huge beak. In summer, it prefers coniferous forests. Sometimes, they stay in mixed woods or birch and poplar woods on sandy soils, in the clearings of small oak trees, or in the steppe regions with semi-desert vegetation. The brooding takes place twice a year: the female lays one or two eggs, preferably under bushes whose branches reach the ground. The incubation period lasts for 17 days. The parents brood the chicks all day, even when they are already capable of flying.

This species nests in this Site of Community Importance, where it hunts for nocturnal insects, such as moths, in evergreen wooded areas after dark.

Photo Dûrzan Cîrano CC BY-SA - Wikimedia Commons

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