Caprimulgus natalensis (Swamp nightjar, Natal nightjar) 

Natalse naguil [Afrikaans]; umHlohlongwane [Zulu]; Rumbamba (generic term for nightjar) [Kwangali]; Leubauba, Mmapheke, Tshogwi (all 3 are generic terms for nightjar) [Tswana]; Moerasnachtzwaluw [Dutch]; Engoulevent du Natal [French]; Natalnachtschwalbe [German]; Noitibó do Natal [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Strigiformes > Family: Caprimulgidae

Caprimulgus natalensis (Swamp nightjar Natal nightjar)   

Swamp nightjar. [photo Swenglishnick & Zimgirl ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occupies patches of sub-Saharan Africa, largely excluding the lowland forest of the DRC and West Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon to locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern Botswana, eastern KwaZulu-Natal and southern Mozambique. It generally prefers grassland adjacent to swamps, lagoons, vleis and rivers, as well as mosaics of grass and reeds (Phragmites), flood plains and grassland with scattered Lala palms (Hyphaene coriacea).

Distribution of Swamp nightjar in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Resident and largely sedentary, although it may local movements in response to changing water levels.


Mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging at dusk, flying up from the ground to hawk a prey item before returning to the same spot. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary breeder, laying two eggs on bare sand, clay or flattened grass, often adjacent to a grass tuft.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-December.
  • The eggs are incubated by both sexes for about 20 days, with the female taking the day shift while the male incubates at night.
  • The chicks are brooded until they leave the 'nest' at about 7-9 days old, relying on their extraordinarily effective camouflage as protection from predators. They are fed by both parents, who may perform distraction displays if they are spotted by a predator.


Not globally threatened, but it is Vulnerable in South Africa due to the spread of agriculture and development, and the burning of habitat.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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