©David Tipling/2020VISION


Scientific name: Caprimulgus europaeus
The easiest way to find out if the nocturnal and well-camouflaged nightjar is about is to listen out for its distinctive 'churring' call at dusk. A summer visitor, it is most numerous in southern England.

Species information


Length: 26-28cm
Wingspan: 60cm
Weight: 83g
Average lifespan: 4 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

April to September


Arriving here in April and May from its wintering grounds in Africa, the nightjar nests on the ground on heathland and in young conifer woods. It is nocturnal, feeding on moths, flies and beetles. Amazingly well camouflaged, the nightjar is most easily spotted at dusk when the males can be seen displaying to females, flying around them, wing-clapping and making their distinctive 'churring' calls.

How to identify

The nightjar has cryptic, bark-like plumage that helps it hide among the undergrowth. Adults have flat heads, a small bill with a surprisingly large gape, and big eyes. Males have white patches towards the end of their wings and at the end of their tails.


A summer visitor to England, Wales and southern Scotland.

Did you know?

If you are watching nightjars at dusk, try flapping a white handkerchief in the air - sometimes the males will come closer to investigate the white flashes!

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working to restore and protect our heathlands by ensuring breeding birds are not disturbed, promoting good management, clearing encroaching scrub and implementing beneficial grazing regimes. This work is vital if these habitats are to survive; you can help by supporting your local Wildlife Trust and becoming a member or volunteer. Don't forget to keep dogs on leads in areas where ground-nesting birds are breeding.