Bird Families

Sandy twilight nightjar

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Nightjars are such wonderful birds that they cannot be ignored or mixed with other relatives. Wherever nightjars are found, they drew the attention of a person to themselves, everywhere they acquired significance and gave rise to peculiar opinions. This is indicated, among other things, by the variety and meaning of the names that these birds bear. They form a very large family, sharply demarcated from others. Their usual German name is "night swallows", although the similarity between them and swallows can only be spoken about in terms of general superficial features: the closest comparison of these groups leads to significant differences.
Both the external and internal structure of the nightjars is highly original. Their magnitude is extremely uncertain. Some species are almost as large as a crow, while others are barely as large as a lark. Their body is elongated, the neck is short, the head is voluminous, wide and flat, the eyes are large and very convex, the beak is relatively small, backward and unusually wide, but short, strongly narrowed in front and extremely flat, the jaws, on the contrary, are extremely elongated, and therefore their mouth wider than any other bird. The legs are usually weak, with short metatarsals, which are covered with calloused skin on the back side, the front of the metatarsus is covered with scutes, mostly feathered at the top, but sometimes completely naked. The toes, with the exception of the very developed middle, are short and weak. In all species, the middle finger is armed with a long and serrated claw. Flight feathers are long, narrow and sharp. The tail consists of 10 feathers, which have very different shapes. The plumage like an owl is soft and long, its pattern is unusually delicate and beautiful, the color is dark and not striking, it can be likened to the color of tree bark. The bristles surrounding the mouth are remarkable, as are the short, thin and thick eyelashes that protect the eyes. In some species, males have a special decoration: elongated and mostly very peculiarly arranged feathers, which come out not only from the tail, as usual, but also from the wings, thus representing the transformed flight feathers.
All countries of the world serve as the homeland of nightjars, with the exception of those that lie in the cold belt. In Europe, there are only two species, in North America - no more than four, but already in Central America and Africa, the number of species increases significantly. The same applies to the corresponding areas of Asia, and Australia is not poor in these birds. The area of ​​distribution of certain species is quite extensive, but their residence is limited only to some areas favorable for them. Most of all nightjars live in the forest, or at least hide there for recreation, some species, on the contrary, prefer the steppes, and others even deserts or desert rocky slopes and similar areas. In the mountains, those species that live there rise to significant heights: for example, ordinary nightjars can be found in the Alps up to 1800 m, African ones in Abyssinia at an altitude of 4000 m, in the Colorado mountains, nightjars rise more than 3000 m above sea level.
The main color of the plumage of nightjars is depending on one or another place of their residence. All forest nightjars have brown plumage, which is quite suitable for the color of tree bark, species that live in deserts or steppes are sandy in color. However, the general nature of the color of each species is almost the same, and therefore Swinson claims that whoever saw one nightjar, he saw them all.
Sedentary birds can, in all likelihood, be considered only those species that live in the forests of equatorial countries. All others are migratory, and all northern species are regularly wandering. They appear in their homeland quite early in the spring and stay there until the beginning of autumn. Their wanderings extend to distant limits: ordinary nightjars fly even into inner Africa.
Most nightjars feed exclusively on various insects, but some species add all kinds of small vertebrates to this food. All nightjars are supremely voracious and therefore render a great service to our forests. With the dexterity of a falcon or a swallow, they fly now low, now high above free space, bushes or tops of trees, circle above them, swinging extremely gracefully in the air, and during the flight they seize an insect that has turned up or pick up those that sleep on leaves and stalks , and even those that just sit on the ground. Their wide mouth allows them to swallow very large beetles, and therefore they attack mainly those species of these insects that other birds spare. Common nightjars can, for example, swallow up to a dozen or more May and June beetles one after the other and are also able to snatch large dung beetles, even Copris, the largest moths, crickets and grasshoppers with their wide mouths.
For better digestion, some, at least insectivorous species, swallow small pebbles, which they collect in siliceous places. Their hunt usually begins at nightfall, continues for several hours, then stops, and resumes again at dawn. Even before the sun appears in the sky, the nightjars go to rest. But even then, there are exceptions. American species often hunt in broad daylight, and not only in dark forests, but even in open places in bright sunlight. Some sit in the daytime on overturned trees or directly on the ground, as well as on the ledges of rocks in dark caves, or, rather, do not sit down, but lie down, since they are so tightly pressed into place that they seem much wider than in high.
All nightjars show their mobility only on the fly, they simply stick to the branches, and lie on the ground rather than sit. Their gait is similar to a very miserable jumping, while flight, on the contrary, is a cross between the flight of a swallow and a falcon, is distinguished by lightness and grace, dexterity and grace. Nightjars take off reluctantly to a considerable height, not because they are not able to do this, but for the reason that lower above the ground they are more likely to get their prey than at a considerable height. But during long-distance flights, they often stay high above the ground, those species that fly during the day, especially like to hunt in the upper layers of the air.
Among the external senses, vision takes precedence, which can be concluded from the large eyes: after sight, hearing and touch are most developed. Whether they have a developed sense of smell, we cannot say with certainty, but with regard to taste, we have every reason to assert that they must have bad taste.
Their mental faculties are insignificant, although, perhaps, not to the extent that they usually think. A sleepy nightjar, which we would observe during the day, produces in any case an unpleasant impression.
Nightjars do not build real nests. They lay their eggs without any bedding directly on the bare ground and do not even bother to dig even a small depression in the ground for this. The number of clutches is usually very small: most nightjars lay only two eggs, and many even one at a time. In all likelihood, only females incubate, but both parents show equally active participation in their offspring and protect them as best they can. Some protect the eggs in a very strange way, Audubon informs us that they hide them in their huge mouth and drag them to another, seemingly safer place in the forest, where they continue to hatch. Chicks hatch from eggs dressed in rather thick fluff, at first they look very ugly thanks to their thick head and huge eyes, but soon they grow up and get the plumage of their parents. As far as we know, all species love their young dearly and protect them with all their might.
The number of enemies dangerous to nightjars is relatively small. A person familiar with them does not pursue them. Such mercy is not at all because benefits are recognized for these birds, but rather for the reason that they see an extremely unpleasant bird in nightjars, the killing of which can lead to sad consequences. So, at least, the Indians think, as well as the Redskins and Negroes inhabiting Central America, the Spaniards and many African tribes agree with them. The common people in Germany look at this harmless creature with not goodwill, since they hold the opinion that the wide mouth of the nightjars was created for nothing else but for milking goats. Rude people often kill this bird out of simple bloodlust. In central Europe, nightjars, along with humans, are pursued by predatory animals and birds, as well as large snakes, however, the harm caused to them by all these animals does not matter much.
Common nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) best fits the general description above. Its length reaches 26 cm, wingspan 55, wing length 19, tail 12 cm.
The area of ​​distribution of nightjars extends from central Norway through all of Europe and western Asia, in winter he visits all the countries of Africa, as he finds himself a winter refuge, apparently in the south of the globe.
In southwestern Europe, especially in Spain, this species is replaced by another - red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis). It is noticeably larger: its length is 31 cm, wingspan is 61, wing length is 20, tail is 16 cm.

1 - Common Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), 2 - Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis)
If not the most common, then at least the most famous type of nightjar in North America is mournful nightjar (Caprinntlgus vociferus). This bird in size is close to the common nightjar. Its plumage is speckled: rusty and grayish specks are mottled against a black-brown background.
Commonly known in America, this bird spreads throughout the eastern United States, and also flies into Mexico and South America in winter.

Complaining Nightjar (Caprimulgus vociferus)
Lyre-tailed nightjar (Macropsalis creagra) reaches a length of 68 to 73 cm, since the extreme tail feathers are almost three times longer than the body, the length of the wings is 24, the tail is 50-55 cm. According to Burmeister, the main color of the plumage is dark brown.

Lyre-tailed nightjar (Macropsalis creagra)
According to Burmeister, lyre-tailed nightjars live alone in dense forests and, apparently, are nowhere particularly numerous. According to Azara. some species sometimes fly into Paraguay, there they also keep in the forests and, like other nightjars, like to fly low above the water of streams.
Pennant nightjar (Semiophorus vexiltarim) is slightly larger than our nightjar. This species lives in the equatorial countries of inner Africa.
The description of the life of all nightjars in general is nothing more than a repetition of what we reported earlier about the birds of this family. As already mentioned, most of all nightjars belong to forests, but not at all to reserved, dense primeval forests: they choose such forests for nesting, where densely overgrown places are replaced by large clearings. The steppe groves of Africa, in which in some places only trees or bushes are scattered, while the rest of the space is overgrown with tall grass, should seem to the nightjars a real paradise, as evidenced, at least, by their extraordinary crowding in such places. South European forests, very often reminiscent of similar steppe groves, they like much more northern dense forests, nightjars fearfully avoid our deciduous forests, although, without any doubt, they are much richer in insects than conifers, in which this bird spends summer. During migration, they appear in all kinds of forests and gardens, but when nesting in the north, they keep exclusively coniferous forests.
The southern European species, the red-necked nightjar, gets along well on mountain cliffs, where rocky areas give way to sparse vegetation, but quite often it nests in forest thickets, especially in oil-bearing forests.
It is recognized that resting nightjars most often sit on the ground and only as an exception on tree branches. All species prefer to sit on trees mainly at night, although between them there are those that spend the day on the branches. The reason for this preference for land over trees is not difficult to guess. Nightjar makes special demands on the branch on which he intends to descend, since he needs his chosen resting place to be comfortable in all respects. As I noted above, none of these birds, like other species, sits across a branch, but always along it, so that the bird's body is parallel to the branch and rests on it. A nightjar sits on a branch in the usual way, like other birds, only when he is frightened, and he escapes to a tree, but such a sitting is so unpleasant for him that he looks for another place for himself as soon as possible. The serrated claws of the middle fingers and the hind fingers facing inward give the bird the opportunity to hold on tightly in this position, but it still requires that the branch be quite thick, without knots and somewhat rough or forked, then only the bird will find it comfortable for itself ...
Nightjars are no less willing to choose a large, flat stone on top as their place of rest. On such a stone, which meets all the requirements and is illuminated from time to time by the sun, you can always find a nightjar, if only once you have seen one of them there. In Africa, as well as in all other hot countries, the nightjars avoid the sun as much as they look for it in Central Europe, and hide to sleep somewhere behind the trunk of a tree or bush. During sleep, the nightjar completely closes his large eyes, obviously, his subtle hearing warns him in time about the approaching danger.
The flight of the nightjar is unusually varied, depending on the time of day and on the excitement of the bird. During the day, he flutters more uncertainly and as if clumsy, even chaotically, one might think that it is some kind of light object rushing, suddenly picked up by the wind, driven by it and thrown to the ground again. In a completely different way it flies like a nightjar at night. With the last rays of the evening dawn fading in the west, he goes hunting. Before that, he had already perked up, in a minute he put his feathers in order and looked around in all directions, after that he flies quickly, deftly, with a gliding flight, directing him in an area with rare forest vegetation or flying directly over glades.
During the whole time of the hunt, the flight of the nightjar changes: either it floats smoothly in the air like a swallow, and its wings are almost in the same high position as that of a flying kite, then suddenly, with quick flaps of its wings, it rapidly rushes to the side. At the same time, the nightjar performs all kinds of evolutions in the air, almost with the same dexterity as the common swallow. Under special circumstances, he, fluttering his wings, stays in one place for a long time, when, for example, something special attracts his curiosity and prompts him to take a closer look. Thus, it continues until the descending night forces him to stop hunting. Since the nightjar swallows relatively huge pieces of, for example, May and large dung beetles, huge moths, moreover, as many as dozens, his stomach fills up very soon and further hunting becomes useless for him. In anticipation of the digestion process, the bird sits on a branch for some time, but as soon as the insects swallowed alive and not so easily deprived of their lives calm down forever and there is cleared a place for new food, the nightjar starts hunting again, and thus the matter continues all night if only it is not very dark and stormy. Nightjars fly most lively at dawn and dawn, in fact, at night I have never seen or heard them, even in equatorial countries, where the nights are very warm.
Omnipotent love produces its magical effect on nightjars, who at first glance seem stupid. That two males can start a heated argument over the possession of a female and at the same time, as far as they have the strength, to pat each other, there is nothing to spread about this. But it is worth paying attention to the fact that all nightjars during the breeding season produce especially different evolutions in the air.Even our European nightjars are able to amuse us with their games in the air during the period of love. Their every movement at this time breathes passion and becomes faster, brave and proud. Not content with this, the nightjar still flaps its wings like a dove in love, rapidly rushes downward, while making a special rustle, or whirls, gliding through the air, over a calmly sitting female, flaunting its skillful flight. Each species accompanies its amorous flirting with something special, but in this case, species living in central Africa and South America, characterized by a peculiar development of feathers, behave most strikingly of all. I do not know of a single detailed description of the flight of the lyre-tailed nightjar, but I can easily imagine that the males of this species should indeed make an amazing impression. I still remember with true delight those spring evenings in Central Africa, when in the steppe, in the village or in the city, long-tailed nightjars appeared in front of our admiring eyes in the midst of their love animation.

Pennant nightjar (Semiophonts vexiltarius)
The nightjar's voice is very diverse. Some species emit mainly some kind of purr, while others - more or less euphonious tones. If you unexpectedly scare away our nightjar during the day, you can hear from him a weak, hoarse "dak-dak", in case of danger he quietly and weakly snorts, like an owl. During the mating period, his peculiar love song is heard, it consists of only two sounds, which it would be more correct to call rustling, but it is sung with amazing constancy. It can be assumed that nightjars produce these sounds in the same way as our domestic cat does its famous purr. Sitting on the top of a tree or on a comfortable twig, the bird begins to make its far-reaching "errrrr", followed by a lower "oerrrr" or "orrr". The latter is done, obviously, when inhaling, the first - when exhaling, since that lasts only one second, and this is four. But when the nightjar sings with full enthusiasm, the duration of one knee lasts from 40 seconds to 5 minutes. The female purrs in the same way as the male, only much less often and always very quietly, since for her it is an expression of tenderness. On the fly, both sexes emit the same inviting cry, sounding in the syllables "hat-hat".
All species living in the north of the globe, as well as those that inhabit areas where there is a sharp transition from one season to another, in unfavorable months for their feeding, leave their nesting sites and, with more or less constancy, migrate to other areas: Thus, some nightjars may be considered migratory birds. According to the type and amount of food consumed, the common nightjar appears in its homeland rather late, rarely in the middle, mostly at the end of April, and in mountainous countries or in the north even at the beginning of May, and at the end of August, little by little it leaves us again. In contrast to many other birds, he wanders slowly and with a certain comfort, although, thanks to his ability to fly well, he easily flies over long distances and even seas, and sometimes without any essential need. In the spring you can often see migratory nightjars, mostly singly or, at most, in pairs, in autumn they keep more or less numerous flocks, and the further south, the flocks increase.
Apparently, all nightjars breed chicks only once a year. It goes without saying that the time of their reproduction is different, depending on the place of residence of one or another species, but it usually coincides with the spring of the corresponding locality. The male zealously tries to win the love of the female and uses all his flying art to please her. The female lays two eggs in the most secluded place, most often under bushes, the branches of which descend to the very ground, and, incidentally, also on a mossy stump, in tufts of grass and in similar places, but always directly on the ground, and where no one ever will not find him. An ordinary nightjar with particular love chooses a place and puts there thin wood shavings or pieces of bast, as well as crumbling needles and similar substances. He never builds a real nest and does not even bother to clear the nesting site properly. Both sexes show an ardent love for offspring and, in all likelihood, are engaged in incubation alternately. In case of danger, a nightjar hatcher resorts to the usual cunning tricks of weaker birds: flutters, as if shot, above the ground, exposes himself as a target for the enemy, lures him farther and farther from the nest and suddenly flies upward with strong flaps of his wings so that, making a sharp turn return to your nest.
The hatched chicks sit under the wings of their parents for the whole day. My father saw that one of the parents sat on the chicks even when the chicks could almost fly. It is quite clear that the brood is fed only at night. First, the chicks receive tender insects - large mosquitoes and moths, then they are given coarser food, and, finally, they themselves must hunt under the supervision and guidance of their parents.
Only in southern Europe, where almost all living, at least all edible, creatures are utilized for the stomach, is the nightjar caught for the kitchen. In Germany, besides naturalists, fortunately, only boys persecute him. And one cannot but rejoice at this, since all nightjars bring only one benefit to the economy and not the slightest harm, as a result of which they deserve universal protection. Anyone who, from personal experience, gets acquainted with the life and habits of this bird, must love it, and one must be a complete ignoramus and superstition in order to believe at least one word from all those fairy tales that are a product of the idle fantasy of the same ignorant. Here, as always, the incomprehensible excites the imaginations of fools and forces them to compose ridiculous stories that are taken at face value by other fools just as much. Funny as it may seem, there are still people who understand the German name for the nightjar (Nachtschatten) in the literal sense of the word and consider it really a "shadow of the night" or some other magical, inexplicable creature. For these defenseless and useful birds, it is already enough that in Greece and Italy, where they are considered the most delicious of all birds, they are jealously pursued during their flight, and in our country, in Central Europe, they have to endure a lot from various predators, such as among mammals and birds! The twilight nightjars differ quite significantly from the described species of the family, especially in their way of life. Their most famous representative is virginian twilight nightjar (Chordeiles minor), approximately equal in size to an ordinary nightjar. Its length is 22 cm, the wingspan is 55, the length of the wing is 20, the tail is 11 cm. The plumage is brown-black on both sides, on the upper part of the head and shoulders, the feathers have rusty edges.

Virginian twilight nightjar (Chordeiles minor)
According to the studies of American naturalists, it became known that this bird inhabits the entire United States, from Florida and Texas to the extreme north and from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific coast, it also breeds chicks in the West Indies, and during its flight it also visits the South America. In the states of central America, the twilight nightjar appears around May 1, in the northern states it rarely until early June and leaves its nesting site quite early, mostly by early September, at the latest - at the end of this month. In Cuba, flying from the south, according to Gundlach, it occurs in April and since then inhabits all the wastelands in large numbers, but in August or early September it disappears again imperceptibly, while in Jamaica it remains for the winter. He chooses as a place of his stay in various areas: areas covered with rare forest, steppes, heaths or cities and villages, lowlands and hills, on which he rises to an altitude of 3500 m above sea level.
The difference in the way of life of twilight and other nightjars is so significant that Ridgeway even expresses surprise how both can be combined into one family.
The dusky nightjar is not so much a nocturnal bird, but a dusky bird, which, by its actions and deeds, reminds and nods rather a swift than a nightjar. He hunts in the morning and evening hours, moreover, for a completely different prey than other nightjars. As soon as the twilight finally turns into the darkness of the night, his hunt ends, and he goes to rest. The same indications, although without such conclusions, were already made by Audubon. "The twilight nightjar has an easy and long flight. In cloudy weather it is active throughout the day. The movements of its wings are extremely graceful, and the playfulness that it discovers during flight attracts everyone. The bird glides through the air with incredible speed, rises rapidly upward. or, fluttering its wings, it stops at a certain height, as if intending to inadvertently throw itself at the prey, and then takes the same direction.
Thus, the twilight nightjar whirls through the air, emitting loud cries at every unexpected turn, or rapidly descends, then flies up again, then falls asleep, then flies over the very surface of the water, then soars over the tallest trees or the top of a mountain. During the time of love, his flight becomes even more attractive. With amazing evolutions, distinguished by remarkable grace and speed, the male tries to express his love to his chosen girlfriend or to outshine some rival by his dexterity. Often he rises 100 m above the ground, then his scream becomes louder and faster the higher he soars, then he again swiftly rushes in an oblique direction downward with half-spread wings and tail, and at the same time with such incredible speed that you expect to see him crash on the ground, but just in time, sometimes just a few meters from the ground, he has time to spread his wings and tail and continues to fly further in the usual way. "
During this overthrow from a height, a special noise is noticed, produced, according to Gundlach, in exactly the same way as the well-known bleating of a snipe, namely by shaking the flight and tail feathers. “Sometimes,” continues Audubon, “when several males are chasing the same female, the spectacle becomes extremely entertaining. The game, however, soon ends: as soon as the female has made a choice, the happy chosen one immediately chases her opponents away. In the dark, the twilight nightjar flies lower, faster and more irregularly, and then for a long time chases insects on its way, spied out from afar. When it gets completely dark, it descends on a house or tree and stays here all night, uttering its cries from time to time. as “pretekitek.” Its food consists mainly of very small insects, namely of various kinds of mosquitoes, which it exterminates innumerable numbers.In this respect, as in the way of hunting, the twilight nightjar is completely similar to the swift, its transitional position between these latter and the nightjars is thus expressed not only in structure, but also in the way of life.
Reproduction takes place in the last days of May, two gray eggs with greenish-brown and violet-gray specks are laid without any litter directly on the ground. In open places, the female chooses a convenient place for herself somewhere - in a field, in a green meadow, in a forest, etc. During incubation, the female in danger shows not only real courage, but also a well-known cunning in order to distract the enemy from her beloved brood with a feigned limp.
Chicks hatch in dark brown down and are fed by both parents. When they grow up, the whole family sits together, side by side, but so quietly and motionless that even their best friend and patron finds it very difficult to distinguish them from the earth, which is the same color with plumage. "
Little by little, the conviction spreads in America that the twilight nightjar and its relatives belong to the most useful birds, and therefore it is unfair to persecute him. If he is still being pursued, it is solely for fun, in order to practice shooting in flight, and not in order to take advantage of the most killed bird, Audubon certifies that the meat of this nightjar is quite edible, it is especially tasty in the fall, when the bird is full and becomes fat , but still the hunt for it is not at all able to reward the spent labor and costs. In addition to humans, this smart and fast-flying bird is harmed by more dexterous falcons.

Life of animals. - M .: State publishing house of geographical literature. A. Brem. 1958.

  • Family of owl nightjars
  • Swifts family

See also other dictionaries:

sandy twilight nightjar - smėlinis sutemų lėlys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas…… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

Chordeiles rupestris - smėlinis sutemų lėlys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas…… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

Flußnachtschwalbe - smėlinis sutemų lėlys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas…… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

engoulevent sable - smėlinis sutemų lėlys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas…… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

sand-colored nigthawk - smėlinis sutemų lėlys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas…… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

smėlinis sutemų lėlys - statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Chordeiles rupestris angl. sand colored nigthawk vok. Flußnachtschwalbe, f rus. sandy twilight nightjar, m pranc. engoulevent sable, m ryšiai: platesnis terminas - sutemų lėliai… Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

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