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Books about Nightjars

The books are listed in order of publication date with the most recent at the top.


Family: Caprimulgidae
Subfamily: Caprimulginae

In the UK:

European Nightjar
Caprimulgus europaeus


There are about 70 species of nightjars in the subfamily Caprimulginae. These are mostly called nightjars but also include pauraques and poorwills.

The Caprimulgidae family also includes the nighthawk subfamily Chordeilinae.


The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World

Vernon R.L. Head

Jacana Publishers


"In 1990 an expedition of Cambridge scientists arrived at the Plains of Nechisar, tucked between the hills of the Great Rift Valley in the Gamo Gofa province in the country of Ethiopia. On that expedition they found three hundred and fifteen species of birds; sixty one species of mammal and sixty nine species of butterfly were identified; twenty species of dragonflies and damselflies; seventeen reptile species were recorded; three frog species were filed; plants were listed. And the wing of a road-killed bird was packed into a brown paper bag. It was to become the most famous wing in the world. When the specimens finally arrived at the British Natural History Museum in Tring it set the world of science aflutter. It seemed that the wing was unique, but they questioned, can you name a species for the first time based only on the description of a wing, based on just one wing? After much to and fro confirmation was unanimous, and the new species was announced, Nechisar Nightjar, Caprimulgus solala, (solus:only and ala:wing). Twenty-two years later an expedition of four led by Ian Sinclair set off to try to find this rarest bird in the world. Vernon R.L. Head captivates and enchants as he tells of the adventures of Ian, Dennis, Gerry and himself as they navigate the wilderness of the plains, searching by spotlight for the elusive Nechisar Nightjar. But The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World is more than a boy's own adventure in search of the rarest bird in the world. It is a meditation on nature, on ways of seeing, on the naming of things and why we feel so compelled to label. It is a story of friendships and camaraderie. But most of all it embraces and enfolds one into the curious and eye-opening world of the birdwatcher."

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Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird, and Owlet-nightjars of the World

Nigel Cleere

Princeton University Press


"This is the ultimate identification guide to the nightjars, potoos, frogmouths, Oilbird, and owlet-nightjars of the world. Covering all 135 known species of these elusive and cryptically plumaged birds, this illustrated guide features more than 580 superb color photographs depicting every species and many subspecies, including numerous images never before published. Photos of museum specimens are provided for birds for which no images in the wild exist, including species not seen since their original discovery. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, confusion species, vocalizations, distribution, habitat and altitudinal range, breeding season and sites, egg type and clutch size, downy chick, status, and Red List category. This easy-to-use photographic guide also includes a color distribution map for every species as well as sections on plumage, taxonomy, and more."

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Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars of Australia

David Hollands

Bloomings Books


"This is the most comprehensive book ever published on all seventeen Owls, Nightjars and Frogmouths of Australia. The author has spent over twenty years observing and photographing them to produce an intimate and evocative picture of the lives of these mysterious birds. The book is richly illustrated with over 200 of the author's photographs, taken in the wild and showing all aspects of the birds' lives."

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A Continuation Survey Of Nightjars Caprimulgus europeaus On SSSIs In East Anglia 2005

Gerry Conway and Ian Henderson

BTO Report 422

British Trust For Ornithology


"A total of seventy-one 1-km squares within SSSI's in East Anglia, were identified as requiring coverage during 2005. A total of twelve territorial Nightjars were located within SSSI boundaries, which had not been recorded in 2004. Eight territorial males were located within the original set of seventy-one survey squares and a further four territorial males in adjacent survey squares."

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The Status And Distribution Of The European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus In Britain In 2004

Gerry Conway and Ian Henderson

BTO Report 398

British Trust For Ornithology


"During the summer of 2004, a UK-wide survey was conducted, by the British Trust for Ornithology, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, English Nature and Forestry Commission, to determine the population status and distribution of the Nightjar Caprimulgus Europaeus. The survey was based on two visits to sites (mainly 1-km squares) by volunteer observers. Professional ornithologists covered areas where volunteer coverage was low."

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Nightjars and their Allies: The Caprimulgiformes

D.T. Holyoak

Colour plates: Martin Woodcock

Oxford University Press


796 pages, 23 colour plates, numerous halftones, line drawings and maps

This book includes general, introductory chapters which review evidence about the group's evolutionary ancestry and place the birds' distributions, behaviour and physiology in an evolutionary context. The second section provides a comprehensive study of the 118 species giving details of coloration, plumage, moults, geographical variation, body measurements, habitats, behaviour, conservation, and evolution. The 23 superb plates by Martin Woodcock illustrate all the species, with behaviour and subtle variations depicted by delicate halftone drawings.

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Nightjars: A Guide to Nightjars and Related Night Birds

Nigel Cleere and Dave Nurney

Pica / Yale University Press

1998 / 2000

This book fully covers this popular group of birds. The text has been thoroughly researched, both in the museum and in the field, and the plates depict feather-by-feather detail, allowing identification of all species, providing adequate views are obtained. As voice is so important in nightjar identification, an accompanying CD with the voices of many species was also produced to be sold with the book.

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Australian Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars

Jill Morris & Lynne Tracey

Great Glider


"A stunning collection of portraits of Australia's night birds. Each one features a detailed report, a distribution map, a poem, and a painting in gouache of the bird against the background of its natural habitat and the food it eats."

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Birds Of The Night: Owls, Frogmouths and Nightjars of Australia

David Hollands



224 guide with colour photographs that covers the 16 species of owls, frogmouths and nightjars of Australia.

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The Nightjar

Peter Tate

Shire Natural History


This book describes the distribution of the European Nightjar in Britain, its breeding cycle, the food it eats, its migration routes and the folklore that surrounds it.

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Management of Heathlands for Nightjars at Minsmere, Suffolk

N.D. Burgess, C.E. Evans and J. Sorensen



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The Nightjar: Yesterday and Today

Margaret Grainger And Richard Williamson

Otter Memorial Paper No. 3

West Sussex Institute of Higher Education, Chichester


A 38 page historical examination of the nightjar in England with illustrations.

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Montagu Sharp

Editor: H. E. Dresser

Educational Series No. 8

Society for the Protection of Birds


A 4 page guide that provides a brief description and information on distribution, numbers, food, characteristics, protection, plus two pages of general remarks.

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Catalogue Of The Picariae In The Collection Of The British Museum

Upupae, Trochili and Coraciae (Cypselidae, Caprimulgidae, Podargidae, and Steatornithidae)

Catalogue Of The Birds In The British Museum, Volume XVI

Upupae, Trochili: Osbert Salvin

Coraciae: Ernst Hartert

14 colour plates: J.G. Keulemans

Printed By Order Of The Trustees

Sold by: Longman & Co.; B. Quaritch; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.; and at the British Museum (Natural History)


From the preface:

"The preparation of the present volume was commenced in the year 1887, but its publication has been delayed from several causes: the desire of profiting by the most recent attempts at classification rendered changes in the serial arrangement of the families necessary; Mr. Salvin, who at first intended to undertake the whole of the Macrochirous families, together with the Podargidae, was prevented by other engagements from proceeding beyond the Trochilidae, so that a substitute had to be introduced to the work; and, finally, the material to be catalogued was unusually heavy, as it not only comprises the two largest collections of Humming-Birds that have been made hitherto, viz. those of the late Mr. J. Gould and of Messrs. Godman and Salvin, but was also increased by the accessions of the last four years. Consequently the contents of this volume greatly exceed those of any of the previous ones, as will be seen from the following statement: Upupae, 16; Trochili, 482; Cypselidae, 78; Caprimulgidae, 86; Podargidae, 24; Steatornithidae 1. Of the 687 species recorded, 50 are not represented in the Museum; but besides the 211 types of species admitted as valid, the Collection contains 62 other typical specimens, the names of which are now relegated to the synonymic lists. With regard to the types of Trochilidae, their number cannot bo given with absolute certainty, as Gould did not always pay regard to distinctive labelling or to the preservation of individual specimens which he would have wished to be regarded as the types of the species named and described by him."
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Notes on the Caprimulgidę

Ernst Hartert

Colour plate (Caprimulgus eximius): J.G. Keulemans

Ibis: Volume 34, Issue 2, pages 274-288


Opening lines:

"Although the Cypselidae and Caprimulgidae are, in my opinion, somewhat allied families, and, in a systematic arrangement, should be placed near together, there can hardly be found a greater difference than in the dull and simple coloration of the plumage of the Swifts, mostly very constant and liable to little variation, and the beautiful and richly coloured plumage of the Goatsuckers, varying in most of the species to a certain extent, and, in some cases, more than in almost any other family of birds."
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Last updated September 2013