Thursday, April 04, 2013

Nightjars (Phylum Chordata: Order Caprimulgiformes) of Singapore

Caprimulgiform birds (phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, superclass Tetrapoda, class Aves, order Caprimulgiformes) are nocturnal birds characterised by their relatively large eyes, short necks, short legs, bristles around their mouths, and cryptically patterned, brownish plumage.

In Singapore, this order is represented by the nightjars (family Caprimulgidae), which are more often heard than seen at night due to their loud calls. Here are two of the few species that can be seen in Singapore.

Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus)
The Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) is a common resident bird. It is brown all over, with darker and paler bands and spots on the wings. This species grows to about 30cm long, and is usually found in forest edges and open habitats. It feeds on insects, catching them in flight.

Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus)
The above features a Large-tailed Nightjar with a chick. This species lays its eggs directly on the ground without building a nest. The call is a repeated single-toned "chonk".

Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis)
The Savanna Nightjar (Caprimulgus affinis) is an uncommon resident found usually in scrublands and other open habitats. It has a brownish plumage marked with finer spots. This species grows to about 25 cm, and makes a repeated "cheweep" call. Like the previous species, it does not build a nest too, and lays its eggs on the ground.

  • Briffett, C. 1986. A guide to the common birds of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 160 pp.
  • Robson, C. 2010. New Holland field guide to the birds of South-East Asia. London: New Holland Publishers. 304 pp.
  • Singapore Birds. Retrieved Mar 25, 2013,
  • Strange, M. 2000. Photographic guide to the birds of Southeast Asia. Singapore: Periplus. 398 pp.

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