Here’s the damn nightjar!

Oy, how dispiriting to see people ignore religious child abuse because they’re busy trying to find a nightjar! Such is the unpredictability of the Internet.

Earlier today, Matthew Cobb posted a photo of a cryptic nightjar sitting on its nest in dead leaves, and asked readers to spot it. Many succeeded after long effort, but I failed and had to ask Matthew.  Well, here it is, with the highlighting courtesy of reader Grania (click to enlarge):

Here's the nighjar!

A bit about the nightjar, since people asked which species it is:

The Fiery-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus pectoralis) is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family, which occurs in Africa south of the equator. It ranges from coastalKenya southwards to the southern regions of Tanzania, the D.R.C. and Angola, to Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its distinctive and frequently uttered call is rendered as ‘good-lord-deliver-us’. Its near relative, the Black-shouldered Nightjar, replaces it in the tropics.

Here’s its range, from xeno-canto:

Picture 4

Here’s a YouTube recording or its call. Judge for yourself how close it is to “good-lord-deliver us”:

Finally, there’s a nice picture here, showing a fiery red eye (I can’t embed it because it’s copyrighted and I haven’t asked permission). Nightjars sit in the middle of the road for some reason, and your car headlights pick them out.

When you approach its nest, the fiery-necked nightjar gives an open-wing display, perhaps warning animals to stay away (picture from SensoryEcology’s Twi**er feed):

Nightjar defense

Finally, another close-up of the bird, also from Sensory Ecology’s Twi**er feed:

Nightjar 2


  1. compuholio
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I feel really stupid. Even with the marker I still don’t see it. With a little imagination I can see a beak and a shut eye but if i am really honest to myself: Not really.

    • Merilee
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Are you sure our legs aren’t being pulled?

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        It’s definitely there. 😉

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Google some night jar pictures and look how they hold their beaks and close their eyes. Perhaps you just aren’t associating how the nightjar looks when hiding.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      This here is a link to the pic on my photobucket ~ [hope it works]:- x10 nightjar I’ts cropped & blown up by 10 showing Jerry’s circled area. Shut eye is clear with head facing left & underneath that the shape of the birds breast [it seems to me]

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        If the pic is password protected let me know ~ I can’t see if it is

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Worked for me. 🙂

          Willing to bet that still won’t help people, though…

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

            Supposed to be a “some” between “help” & “people.”

          • compuholio
            Posted November 12, 2013 at 1:12 am | Permalink

            It’s not that I can’t bring myself to see it. The circle helps so that I can at least work out the upper body.

            But if I’m really honest to myself it could just as well be a leaf. And even when I look at your magnified image: If nobody told me what I am supposed to see I wouldn’t recognize it as a bird.

            • Diane G.
              Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:03 am | Permalink

              Which means natural selection is doing a great job! Just as with all the other amazing examples of camouflage or mimicry that have been posted here. 🙂

              I’m sure it helps to already be a bit familiar with just how cryptic nightjars are, though. Then you realize that yes, all the signature caprimulgid traits are there in the right relationship to each other.

              (‘Tweren’t my magnified image–Michael Fisher deserves that credit. I just tried to provide an image of what to look for as an eye.)

  2. Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Down south we called them (or some sub-species of them)”boomers,” because they would dive straight down from 2-3 hundred feet then spread their wings and pull up just above the ground, which produced a very impressive low-frequency sound.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    The trick for me was finding the feathers as their texture stands out from the texture of the dry leaves.

  4. Posted November 11, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    Still don’t see it. I think all y’all have hyperactive pareidolias going….


    • Diane G.
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      Don’t know if this will help, Ben, but have a look at the closed (mostly) eye on this nighthawk I found, and try to find something similar-looking near the left side of Grania’s oval.


      • Posted November 11, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm…I could maybe possibly perhaps try to convince myself that it’s there, but I still see way too much noise for any meaningful signal to emerge.


        • Diane G.
          Posted November 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

          You have zoomed in, right? Look closely at the color pattern in the last picture above, the buffy band around the neck and the dark & light (& dark again) bars just below that. That pattern can be seen in the original bird as well.

  5. rainbowwarriorlizzie
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on HUMAN RIGHTS & THE SIEGE OF BRITAIN POLITICAL JOURNAL and commented:
    Us Animal Lovers where also curious and we enjoy your animal behaviour posts and especial Hili our favourite puss cat says Daisy May puss cat…so thank you for sharing about the NightJar I actually have not seen one before so have found very interesting.

  6. Posted November 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I declare that the call sounds more like ‘All-life-is-related’. Nightjars are wise birds.

  7. godsbelow
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    The nightjar’s call is one of the things I miss most about Zimbabwe. I used to love hearing its melancholy trilling punctuate the hum of the bush on nights I spent at my grandfather’s farm.

    • BilBy
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      The ‘good lord deliver us’ call is one of the iconic sounds of being out in the bush in southern Africa. Also the calls of Cape turtle doves on hot afternoons and the yelp of fish eagles. Sigh – off for a little nostalgic cry now.

      • godsbelow
        Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Absolutely right! Though I must admit I have mixed feelings about the turtle doves – I spent too many afternoons as a child confined to my room while the adults dozed, bored out of my mind, listening to the doves hooting in the distance and wishing I could be out there too.

  8. lanceleuven
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Even with the helpful red circle it still took me a while. I’m clearly too stupid for this game! 🙂

  9. Posted November 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for pointing it out – but can you guys see the other nightjar in the photo?

  10. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I call pareidolia, Virgin Mary on toast etc.
    There’s no such thing as nightjars, don’t fall for the hoax!!elebenty

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted November 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Pardon me Ben G, didn’t see yours above. 🙂

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