Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar) 

[= Macrodipteryx vexillaria

Wimpelvlerknaguil [Afrikaans]; Wimpelnachtzwaluw [Dutch]; Engoulevent porte-étendard [French]; Ruderflügel [German]; Noitibo-de-balanceiros [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

Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar)  Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar) 
Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar) 

Pennant-winged nightjar male, Namibia. [photo Phil Palmer ©]

Pennant-winged nightjar males, Uganda (note the different tail sizes). [photo Pete Morris ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Cameroon to Sudan, south through the DRC, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is locally common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern Botswana, Zimbabwe and central Mozambique, while scarce in north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers mature broad-leaved woodland with plenty of leaf litter, especially if it has a substratum of sand, stone or burnt ground. 

Distribution of Pennant-winged 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.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, breeding in southern Africa and adjacent countries in the period from September-February, after which it heads north to its equatorial non-breeding grounds.


Mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging over broad clearings at dusk and just before daybreak, catching prey aerially. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Usually a polygynous solitary nester, with the male performing a spectacular display in which it flies around to display its long pennants, occasionally perching to give out a call. Strangely, a group of hundreds was once recorded in Zimbabwe mass-mating along a 25 km stretch of gravel road.
  • The nest is an unlined scrap in the soil, usually shaded by a tall tree.
Macrodipteryx vexillarius (Pennant-winged nightjar  

Pennant-winged nightjar chicks (camouflaged with the surrounding soil), Mutinondo, Zambia. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from September-January, peaking from October-November.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 15-18 days; the eggs are readily deserted if the incubating female is disturbed.
  • Little is known about the development and care of the chicks.


Not threatened.


  • 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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