Wild life and nature of Samos, Ikaria & Fournoi

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European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)


The European nightjar is 24.5-28 cm long, with a 52-59 cm wingspan. The adult has greyish-brown upperparts with dark streaking, a pale buff hindneck collar and a white moustachial line. The closed wing is grey with buff spotting, and the underpants are greyish-brown, with brown barring and buff spots. The bill is blackish, the iris is dark brown and the legs and feet are brown. During cold conditions, several nightjar species slow their metabolism and go into topor to maintain their body for weeks.


Found on heathlands, moorlands, in open woodland with clearings, and in recently felled conifer plantations.


The European nightjar feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including moths, beetles, mantis, dragonflies, cockroaches and flies. It will pick glow-worms off vegetation. It consumes grit to aid with digesting its prey, but any plant material and non-flying invertebrates consumed are taken inadvertently while hunting other food items. Young chicks have been known to eat their own faeces.

Protected Status

This species is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

Interesting Facts

The Nightjars’ plumage makes it difficult to see in the daytime as they perch motionless along open branches or sit in the ground. They occasionally turn to face the sun to their shadowCaprimulgus and the old name ‘goatsucker’ both refer to the myth since Ancient Grece, that nightjars suckled from nanny goats which later ceased to give milk or went blind.

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