Monday, October 18, 2010

ABC Wednesday: N is for Nightjar

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Nightjars are a big bird family with species found all over the world. They are sometimes called nighthawks or goatsucker, the sceintific name for the family Caprimulgidae also means goatsucker. This is because they were thought to drink the milk from goats since nightjars hunt insects and goats of course draw a lot of insects, so there were a lot of those weird nocturnal birds with the huge beak around.
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These are all Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides), an Australian nightjar species - the one above is a chick. They will eat small rodents and reptiles as well as insects and the name Frogmouth is well-given.
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It's very hard to see any nightjar species when it doesn't want to be seen. Many nest on the ground and will stay very still - it's possible to walk right by a nest without seeing it. Frogmouths will strike a pose that makes them resemble broken tree limbs and blend in with the bark. Like this:
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If you look closely, you can see stiff feathers around the bird's beak. Those will let the bird know when it touches an insects or even when an insect is close. They are even more visible with other nightjar species (who are not as fluffy as the Frogmouth), check the photo of the European Nightjar I linked below.
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I have seen a European Nightjar once, in a nature reservoir close to Hamburg. They have a distinct call, like a cross between a frog and an idling diesel engine, and males will call for hours on end. They are very hard to spot, but the nightjar did us the favour to fly directly over our group, looking very much like a giant moth, beating its wings once and then gliding silently. I couldn't get a photo since it was already dark, but listen to the call here

See what else N stands for with ABC Wednesday
Photos were taken at Vogelpark Walsrode, London Zoo and Zoo Wuppertal

23 comments:

Berowne said...

"Nightjar." Fascinating; I learned something.

Sylvia K said...

Marvelous post for the day as always! What a magnificent bird! And as always, I love your photos! Hope you have a wonderful week!

Sylvia

Wanda said...

Well another of your unique and fabulous Letter Posts.

What a interesting bird... love that pictures showing those big eyes...

Nanka said...

What a peculiar bird that it. Haven't seen it around these parts though. First time I see it. Thank you for that!!

photowannabe said...

That is one strange looking bird. I love the fluff and pose it struck. Thanks for sharing the bird call too. Fascinating.

Roger Owen Green said...

WOW. Never heard of these. Look like a piece of wood in some pics. Thanks for the info.
ROG, ABC Wednesday team

RuneE said...

They looked a bit angry, I hope you had a powerful lens!

Cezar and Léia said...

Nightjar, I need to say I didn't know this name!This critter is adorable and your pictures are beautiful.Thanks for all information!
Léia

Babooshka said...

Educational and the little one is so cute.

Carver said...

Great post and fantastic shots of the nightjars.

Amy said...

Nightjars is a new one for me - we have nighthawks here in the western US that look completely different. Your photos are fantastic!

Leslie: said...

Odd looking bird. Is it related to the owl? Great photos! :D

Tumblewords: said...

Interesting. They seem to vanish into the background. I've heard of them but never seen a photo - fascinating!

Granny Smith said...

That Frogmouth chick is adorable. The nightjar call is indeed haunting - and well described!

Shigune Matsui said...

They look very cute! Thanks for introducing all these birds to me!! Here's mine http://thelunaticsdiary.blogspot.com/2010/10/neurotoxic-demon.html

Kay L. Davies said...

I've never read "a cross between a frog and an idling diesel engine" anywhere ever before and I love it. Such a cute bird, to make such a noise. Wonderful, wonderful. The nightjar has made my day.

Kay, Alberta

Gramma Ann said...

I have to admit, I never heard of this bird before. I learned something new again this week.

ChrisJ said...

I have heard nightjars but never seen one.

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

I think I've heard the sound of a nightjar - long time ago when walking in the woods with someone who knew the difference - never seen one close and I never knew they were known as goatsuckers.

Jay said...

Wow, that song is LOUD!! I know we have them here, but I've never seen or heard one .. unless I've mistaken one for a small owl in the dusk, which I suppose is possible.

Beautiful pictures - thank you! So nice to see these fascinating birds up close.

On behalf of the team, thanks for taking part in ABC Wednesday this week. :

NanU said...

Nightjars! How Neat! I've never seen one except at the zoo.

Snow Leopard said...

Quite enlightening

Jingle said...

love both choices, cute birds.