European Nightjar Bird Information & Facts
The European nightjar returns from its winter haven in eastern and southern Africa in late April or in May.
Length: 27 cm. The female lacks the white patch on the primaries.
Voice: Flight call is a soft ‘goo-ek’, alarm call a high ‘quick-quick-quick’ and the night song a loud, rising and falling, which can last for as long as five minutes.
Size of Egg: 27.0—36.5 X 20.0—24.0 mm.
European Nightjar Bird Habitat
European Nightjar is widespread throughout Europe, where it frequents light and dry conifer or mixed woods, mainly where in fact there are plenty of pine trees, but it also favours the margins of forests and forest clearings. During the courting period, European Nightjar performs acrobatic feats, clapping its wings simultaneously. During the day it perches length-wise on a tree branch, its colouring making it practically invisible.
When startled it opens its bill wide and spreads its wings and tail in an attempt to frighten off any intruder. When disturbed on the nest it frequently flies up, hovering in the air with a wide-open beak in an attempt to ward off the assailant and prevent its approach to the nest.
The female lays 2 eggs on the bare ground at the end of May or in June, and both partners take turns at incubating for 16 to 18 days. The young, which leave their ‘nest’ at the age of 16 to 19 days, are fed insects for a full month. These include chafers and other beetles, as well as moths, including the swift sphinx-moth, which the adult birds catch on the wing after dusk. The European Nightjar leaves for its winter quarters in August or September. Outside the nesting season, it is not shy and often visits pastures, ‘flying close to humans and animals in its pursuit of airborne insects.
This accounts for the belief that it visits grazing she-goats and sucks their udders, giving rise to the names by which it is known in many countries as, for example, the German Ziegenmelker (nanny-milker).