A Pile of Leaves – Red-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis)

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It’s been another busy season with September tours to Austria-Hungary, and two back-to-back tours here on The with the autumn migration. I’ll be posting some of the migration photos later when I get more time but right now (up early again…) I thought I’d show some very recent photos of a really special bird.

Red-necked ,

, Caprimulgus ruficollis

The Red-neckedNightjar(Caprimulgusruficollis) is the larger of the two EuropeanNightjarsfound in Europe. It’s a late migrant and will travel down to Western Africa when the first rains come.

We regularly see and hear it in summer flitting over the garden wall, across the swimming pool hunting moths and other nocturnal insects. These views at home are always very brief but the occasionally I get the chance to show the bird when tour leading.

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

Hunting at night and sleeping through the heat of the day it’s often a very difficult bird to spot on the ground and many times I unwittingly flushed them in the pine forests or mixed woodlands here in SW .

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

A close up view of that wonderful cryptic plumage and the bird’s eyes just open enough to see what threat or danger there is. The bird relies on it’s fantastic cryptic plumage, a defensive adaptation, usually a very subtle pattern of browns and greys enabling them to blend in to the background, hence looking through those piles of leaves!

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

Here’s a photo of a Red-necked Nightjar nesting in spring. We came across the bird by chance, quickly took a few photos and left the area. Flight shots of this bird without flash photography are always difficult and these three flight shots were taken in late afternoon some years ago, again on an autumn migration tour.

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

Red-necked Nightjar, Caprimulgus ruficollis

This photo shows a Red-necked Nightjar in the hand to give an idea of of size of the body tail and wings. Photo Credit: Samuel Lopez Ligero

Distribution map of Red-necked Nightjar

Stephen Daly

Stephen Daly

, has been birding since he was eight years old in his native Scotland. After living in Germany and France he established Andalucian Guides the successful birding and wildlife tour company on The Strait of Gibraltar in Spain and has been living here since 2001. Photographing birds in flight is one passion and his photos can be found in many books, magazines and journals. Studying bird behaviour and bird migration are two other positive aspects of being based on one of the busiest migration routes on Earth.

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Susan Lee

Wonderful photos! Shows how is it one may be walking right near the nightjars and not see them if they don't move.

Pat Jandacek

It's amazing that they are EVER seen on the ground, they blend in so perfectly. Kudos to you for being so observant!