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Large-tailed Nightjar: Nesting behaviour

on 26th August 2006

The Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus) is a nocturnal bird easily detected in the night when it responds to the beam of your torchlight with a pair of red eyes. In the day you come across it walking through scrubland when the bird suddenly scrambles off noisily. You would have probably disturbed it nesting on the ground. This cryptic bird is not easily detected otherwise. It nests on the open ground, using a small piece of ground that is scraped clean of debris.

Sreedharan Gopalsamy was at Air Keroh, Malaysia with his family in May 2006 when he encountered the antics of this bird. “I was there with my wife, Mala, and son, Varun, looking for and photographing birds. We eventually went to the area where we knew that the nightjar was nesting and walked around slowly and carefully, scanning the ground. When all of a sudden I felt and saw something brush my feet. It was the parent nightjar. It then moved about half a meter away and feigned an injured wing. After about 5-10 seconds of this, it moved about 5 meters away and repeated this behaviour and yet again about 10 meters away. Each time trying to get me to follow it. It subsequently flew to a long branch before heading into the undergrowth. Throughout this sequence my son, who was beside me, and I were rooted to our spot. My wife was a few meters behind.

“It turned out that we were about 10 meters away from the nest (rather than stepping on the nest as Varun initially feared). I took my few shots and we moved away so that the mama could come back and look after her chicks. It was unusual for me in that I was not aware that nightjars exhibited this behaviour and that the parent would be so bold as to actually brush my feet.”

Comment by YC Wee: I had the same experience some 20 years ago at Kent Ridge. As I was walking through the sparse undergrowth bordering the then Department of Botany, an adult Large-tailed Nightjar scrambled away and laid on the ground some distance away freigning a broken wing. As I followed it, it scrambled further away and so on. Returning to the original spot, I noticed a pair of eggs lying on a cleared piece of ground. A few days layer I when I was near the nest the incubating bird flew off noisily, leaving a pair of fluffy chicks. I returned the next morning taking care not to disturb the bird and managed to take a picture of the adult bird sitting on its crude nest.

Input by Sreedharan Gopalsamy; images by Tang Hung Bun (top), Sreedharan (middle) and YC (bottom, small).

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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