Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Fiery-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus pectoralis)


French: Engoulevent musicien German: Pfeifnachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras músico

Caprimulgus pectoralis


, 1816,

Knysna, Western Cape Province, South Africa


Closely related to C. poliocephalus. Subspecies nigriscapularis often considered a separate species (as in HBW) on account of differences in plumage and voice, but recent analysis indicates that plumage distinctions very weak and vocal differences small#R, although there is recent evidence that pectoralis and nigriscapularis might overlap in Rwanda#R. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. p. nigriscapularis Reichenow, 1893 – Black-shouldered Nightjar – patchily from Gambia, Senegal and W Sierra Leone E through S Nigeria and Cameroon to SE South Sudan and W Kenya, and S to Congo and SW DRCongo.
  • C. p. shelleyi Bocage, 1878 – Angola and S DRCongo E to SE Kenya, N & C Tanzania and N Malawi.
  • C. p. fervidus Sharpe, 1875 – S Angola, N Namibia, N & E Botswana and Zimbabwe to NE South Africa.
  • C. p. crepusculans Clancey, 1994 – S Malawi (possibly), SE Zimbabwe and Mozambique to E South Africa and E Swaziland.
  • C. p. pectoralis Cuvier, 1816 – Fiery-necked Nightjar – SW & S South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    23–25 cm; male 34·5–70 g, female 38–66 g; by race: 48–60 g (nigriscapularis), 33–65 g (shelleyi), 37·4–71... read more


    Song of male is a melodious but variable whistle, “peeo-u-oh, piriririri”, first note... read more


    Typically Brachystegia woodland savanna (miombo), but also commonly mopane and other... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes mantises, spiders, moths, grasshoppers and beetles; study of 27 stomachs containing 236 insects found Lepidoptera (48·... read more


    Breeds Aug–Sept in Angola, Jul–Nov (mainly Sept–Nov) in Zambia, Sept–Nov in Malawi, from Sept generally in E Africa... read more


    Nominate race sedentary and partially migratory. At end of breeding season, moves N and NE (Apr... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widely distributed and generally quite common throughout most of range. Few data published on population densities, though widespread and locally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Fiery-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus pectoralis). 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 26 February 2020).