nightjar



nightjar defined in 1930 year

nightjar - Nightjar;
nightjar - Ash-grey spotted and barred with black, brown, and chestnut; first three primaries with a large white patch on the inner web, the two outer tail-feathers on each side tipped with white. Length, ten and a quarter inches.

The nightjar, or goatsucker, is the representative of a type widely distributed on the earth; we have only one species, just as we have but one swift, one kingfisher, one wryneck, and one cuckoo. And, having but one, and this being so singular a bird, unlike all other species known to us, in structure, colouring, language, and habits, he excites a great deal of interest, and is very well known, although a night-bird, nowhere abundant, and a sojourner with us for only about four months and a half out of the twelve. He arrives in this country about the middle of May, and inhabits commons, moors, and stony places, and is also to be met with in woods. He is found in all suitable localities throughout Great Britain, but is more local in Ireland. Year after year he returns to the same spot to breed, faithful as the swift to its church-tower and the wryneck to its hollow tree, although the unforgotten spot may be on level waste land with a uniform surface. During the daylight hours he sits on the ground among bracken or heather, or by the side of a furze- bush, or in some open place where there is no shelter; but so long as he remains motionless it is all but impossible to detect him, so closely does he resemble the earth in colour. And here we see the advantage of his peculiar colouring - the various soft shades of buff and brown and grey, which at a short distance harmonise with the surroundings, and render him invisible. When perching on a tree he makes himself invisible in another way: his habit is to perch, not crossways on a branch, but lengthways. He rises from; he ground when almost trodden on, and goes away with a silent flight, darting this way and that in an eccentric course, and looking more like a great grey mottled and marbled moth than a bird. After going a short distance he drops to earth just as suddenly as he rose. After sunset he may be seen on the borders of woods, by the side of hedges, and in meadows near the water, pursuing his insect prey, dashing rapidly along, with quick turns and doublings, as of a lapwing at play. At this hour his curious reeling, spinning, or whirring song may be heard, a little like the song of the grasshopper warbler in character; but the warbler's song is a whisper by comparison. ' The sound,' Yarrell truly says, ' can be easily imitated by vibrating the tongue against the roof of the mouth; but the imitation, excellent as it may be close to the performer, is greatly inferior in power, being almost inaudible to anyone twenty yards off, while the original can be heard in calm weather for half a mile or more.' Of the other curious vocal performance of the nightjar the same author says: ' On the wing, while toying with his mate, or executing his rapid evolutions round the trees,... the cock occasionally produces another sound, which, by some excellent observers, has been called a squeak, but to the writer is exactly like that which can be made by swinging a whipthong in the air.' Most of the names the bird is called by have reference to its summer song - spinner, wheelbird, night-churn, and churn-owl.

The nightjar deposits its two eggs on the bare ground; their colour is white or cream, blotched, mottled, clouded, and veined with brown, blackish brown, and grey. One brood is reared in the season. TV>o return migration is in September.

A single specimen of the red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis), an inhabitant of South-western Europe, has been obtained in this country; and (in 1883) one specimen of the Egyptian nightjar (Caprimulgus egyptius), was shot in Nottinghamshire.

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letter "N"
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