Indian nightjar

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The Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) is a small nightjar belonging to the family Caprimulgidae.

These nightjar species are distributed in Afghanistan, Iran, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The Indian nightjar species are nocturnal birds with long pointed wings and short legs. There are two recognized subspecies of these nightjars.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Indian Nightjar Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Indian nightjar - Overview

  • Scientific name: Caprimulgus asiaticus
  • Species author: Latham, 1790
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Caprimulgus asiaticus Latham, 1790
  • Family: Caprimulgidae › Caprimulgiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Indian nightjar, Chinese: 印度夜鹰, French: Engoulevent indien, German: Hindunachtschwalbe, Spanish: Chotacabras hindú, Russian: Индийский козодой, Japanese: インドヨタカ, Tamil: Chinna Pakki
  • Other names: Common Indian nightjar, Little Indian Nightjar, Little Nightjar
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos
  • Diet and feeding habits: flying insects, moths, crickets, cicadas, grasshoppers, beetles, swarming insects, winged ants, winged termites, flies
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) is closely related to Madagascan nightjar (Caprimulgus madagascariensis). The two recognized subspecies of Caprimulgus asiaticus are: Caprimulgus asiaticus asiaticus Latham, 1790 and Caprimulgus asiaticus eidos J. L. Peters, 1940.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) is a small nightjar, measuring about 24 cm in length and weighing about 40 to 45 grams.

There is great variation in the plumage of these Indian nightjar species. Generally the upper parts are grayish brown with blackish brown streaks. The gray crown has broad blackish brown streaks in the center and has reddish brown edges.

The tail of these nightjar species is short and has white corners. The cheeks are darker and there are whitish patches on the side of the throat. The breast region has fine brown bars. Their call is a distinctive “chuk-chuk-chuk" sound.
Image of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus
Picture of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus by Thimindu Goonatillake
Photo of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus
Image of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus by Vinay Narayana Swamy
Picture of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus
Photo of Indian nightjar - Caprimulgus asiaticus

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The Indian nightjar species are distributed in Afghanistan, Indian mainland, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. The subspecies C. a. eidos occur in Sri Lanka.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these nightjars in Nepal are, Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Parsa Wildlife Reserve, Chitwan National Park, Dang Deukhuri foothill forests and west Rapti wetlands. The IBA of these species in Cambodia is Chhep and in Laos is Dong Khanthung.

Ecosystem and habitat

The Indian nightjar species have very low forest dependency. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 1500 meters. They inhabit artificial ecosystems as well as natural forest and shrubland ecosystems. These species inhabit arable lands, rural gardens, urban parks and plantations.

The habitats of Indian nightjar species include tropical and subtropical dry forests, tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests, tropical and subtropical dry shrublands, tropical and subtropical high altitude shrublands and tropical and subtropical moist shrublands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these Indian nightjar species is mostly large insects. Insects like crickets, mantises, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, moths, beetles and wasps are the primary food. They have been observed to feed on the spurge flowers.

These nightjar species are crepuscular, active in the twilight before dawn and dusk. They fly into the swarms of insects attracted to artificial light with their bill wide open. They are seen frequently resting on roads during the night and feeding on insects under street lights.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these nightjar species is from February to September in India, with a peak in April and May. In Pakistan, these species have been recorded to breed from April onwards. The nest is an unlined scrape on the bare ground.

The typical nightjar clutch contains two eggs. The eggs are creamy pink and marbled. The female incubates the eggs. The hatchlings are covered by brown down on the upperparts, providing camouflage. The hatchlings, under threat, crawl and hide among the leaf litter.

Migration and movement patterns

The Indian nightjar is a non-migrant resident bird.

Post breeding, the nightjar juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) has not been quantified. The overall population size of these species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be generally common and widespread. The generation length is 5.6 years. Their distribution size is about 8,210,000

The Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion, or the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. Loss of habitat and getting killed by vehicular traffic in the nights are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these nightjar species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the nightjar species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the Indian nightjar (Caprimulgus asiaticus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Caprimulgus asiaticus
Species:C. asiaticus
Binomial name:Caprimulgus asiaticus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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