Caprimulgus tristigma (Freckled nightjar) 

Donkernaguil [Afrikaans]; Datiwa (generic name for nightjar) [Shona]; Mahulwana, Ribyatsane, Riwuvawuva (generic terms for nighjar) [Tsonga]; Leubauba, Mmapheke, Tshogwi (all 3 are generic terms for nightjar) [Tswana]; Rotsnachtzwaluw [Dutch]; Engoulevent pointillé [French]; Fleckennachtschwalbe [German]; Noitibó-sardento [Portuguese]

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Caprimulgus tristigma (Freckled nightjar)   

Freckled nightjar, Klipbokkop Mountain Lodge, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

 

The Freckled nightjar occurs in localized populations across sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is scarce in the western half of the region, but is however much more common in the eastern Half, especially in Zimbabwe. It roosts and nests on rocks, and can actually tolerate surface temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade! It feeds mainly on beetles and moths, and has the largest gape of any nightjar, and is capable of swallowing 3.5 cm long insects whole. It nests in natural hollows in rocks, where it lays 2 eggs, which are incubated for 18-20 days by both sexes. The chicks are cared for by both parents, and are camouflaged so that they blend in with the surrounding rock.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in localized populations across sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea to Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is scarce in central Namibia and the Northern and Western Cape, while more common in northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, western Mozambique and eastern South Africa. It generally prefers areas with lots of rock formations or boulders, such as rocky hillsides, ravines, escarpments and rock-strewn dry riverbeds, often with adjacent broad-leaved woodland. It roosts and nests on rocks, and can actually tolerate surface temperatures of 60 degrees celsius!

Distribution of Freckled 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.  

Food 

Feeds mainly on beetles and moths, doing its foraging at dusk, dawn and sometimes moonlit nights. It has the largest gape of any nightjar, and is capable of swallowing 3.5 cm long insects whole. It mainly forages in woodland, hunting from the ground and making repeated forays into the night. It hawks insects aerially before returning to the same spot. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It nests in bare, natural hollows in rock, often filled with wind blown debris such as rock chips and leaves.
  • In the eastern half of southern Africa the egg-laying season is from August-December, peaking from September-November, however there is no data for Namibia and the Western Cape.
  • It lays two eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 18-20 days: the female incubates in the daytime, while the male takes the night shift.
  • The chicks are extremely well camouflaged, as they are covered in dark grey down mottled with white, blending in with the surrounding rock. They are cared for by both parents; the female broods them during the day and both parents hunt at night. The chicks take their first flight at about 19-20 days old.

Threats

Not threatened.

References

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

 
 

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