Working for birds in Africa

Photospot: Collared Nightjar Caprimulgus enarratus

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Most African nightjars Caprimulgidae are associated with savanna or open woodland habitats with Bates's Nightjar Caprimulgus batesi and Brown Nightjar C. binotatus being two species more closely associated with forest habitats. However, neither species have however been proven to breed within the forest canopy(1).

Two nightjar species are found in  Madagascar, the widespread and common Madagascar Nightjar C. madagascariensis and the rare endemic Collared Nightjar C. enarratus. The latter species is restricted to the undisturbed rainforests of the central-eastern and the north and north-west regions. The habitat is fast disappearing. The species may also occasionally be found in adjacent secondary growth and in some dry deciduous forests and has recently been recorded in brush forest and mangroves in the Morondava area in western Madagascar.

In October 1994, 1 was lucky to be shown a roosting bird in the Réserve Spéciale d'Analamazaotra/Perinet (18 28'S, 48 28'E), about 930 m above sea-level. The area has an annual average precipitation of about 1,700mm. The bird had roosted for a number of days in the same spot, and was cautiously approached to within 3m to obtain photographs. The forest has a high canopy and where the bird roosted the canopy was closed, with little or no sunlight penetrating to the forest floor. The bird was well camouflaged in the leaf litter.

It is possible that the bird could have been incubating but this was not confirmed for fear of further disturbance. Collared Nightjars were subsequently seen hawking insects above the forest canopy during the evenings.


Nigel Cleere kindly commented on the first draft of this note.


1. Fry, C.H., Keith, S. and Urban, E.K. (eds). 1988. The Birds of Africa. Vol III. London: Academic Press.

Hugh Chittenden

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