Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus)


French: Engoulevent d’Europe German: Ziegenmelker Spanish: Chotacabras europeo
Other common names: Eurasian Nightjar

Caprimulgus europæus


, 1758,



Closely related to C. fraenatus and C. rufigena. Sometimes reckoned to be replaced to the E by C. indicus. Much of geographical variation is clinal. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. e. europaeus Linnaeus, 1758 – N & C Europe E through NC Asia (mainly S of c. 60° N) to L Baikal region.
  • C. e. meridionalis E. J. O. Hartert, 1896 – NW Africa and Iberia E through S Europe, Crimea, Caucasus and Ukraine to NW Iran and Caspian Sea.
  • C. e. sarudnyi E. J. O. Hartert, 1912 – Kazakhstan from Caspian Sea E to Kyrgyzstan, Tarbagatai and Altai Mts.
  • C. e. unwini A. O. Hume, 1871 – Iraq and Iran E to W Tien Shan and Kashgar region, N to S Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and S to W & N Pakistan.
  • C. e. plumipes Przevalski, 1876 – E Tien Shan (NW China and W & S Mongolia).
  • C. e. dementievi Stegmann, 1949 – S Transbaikalia and NE Mongolia.
  • Winters in sub-Saharan Africa.

    Descriptive notes

    24·5–28 cm; male 51–101 g, female 67–95 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upperparts greyish-brown streaked blackish-brown with indistinct pale buff nuchal... read more


    Song of male is a distinctive, continuous churring that frequently changes to a lower pitch and... read more


    Mainly dry, open country: lowland heaths with scattered trees and bushes, commons and moorland,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes moths, beetles, mantises, mayflies, dragonflies, Orthoptera, cockroaches, bugs, Hymenoptera, antlions, lacewings, caddisflies... read more


    Breeds late May to Aug, occasionally Apr–Jul in some regions; breeding often ­influenced by lunar phase. Single-brooded or double... read more


    Highly migratory. Nominate race leaves breeding grounds late Jul to Nov (mainly late Aug to Oct), W... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common to very common in suitable habitat throughout breeding range, though decreasing in numbers and/or range in many regions, especially in... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. & Christie, D.A. (2020). European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 7 April 2020).