Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Ladder-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis climacocerca)


French: Engoulevent trifide German: Staffelschwanz-Nachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras de escalera

Caprimulgus climacocercus


, 1844,



Validity of races intercedens, pallidior and canescens questionable, as all three occur along a 120-km stretch of the lower Amazon between Óbidos and Santarém, and all remain virtually unknown; intercedens sometimes lumped within pallidior#R. Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. c. schomburgki P. L. Sclater, 1866 – E Venezuela and the Guianas.
  • H. c. climacocerca (Tschudi, 1844) – SE & E Colombia E to S Venezuela and N Brazil (C Pará), S to E Ecuador, E Peru and N & E Bolivia.
  • H. c. intercedens Todd, 1937 – NC Brazil: known only from type locality at Óbidos, in W Pará.
  • H. c. pallidior Todd, 1937 – NC Brazil: known only from type locality at Santarém, in W Pará.
  • H. c. canescens Griscom & Greenway, 1937 – NC Brazil: known only from lower R Tapajós, in W Pará.
  • Descriptive notes

    23–28 cm; male 42–46 g, female 45–52 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upper­parts greyish brown or brownish, streaked blackish brown; buffish nuchal collar; wing-... read more


    Song, or perhaps call, is a repetitive, high-pitched, emphatic “chip” or slightly... read more


    Typically, rainforest, open woodland, secondary growth, riverine forest and grassland, on... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet poorly studied, but probably feeds on insects. Foraging methods poorly documented. Forages by making short sallies from low perches or... read more


    Poorly known. Breeds possibly late Jul to Aug (probably longer) in Colombia, Jul–Nov in French Guiana, Sept–Oct in Bolivia and... read more


    None documented. Sedentary.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. In Colombia, common along large rivers where there are sandbars and river islands. In Surinam, common along rivers where there are plenty of rocks... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Ladder-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis climacocerca). 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 21 February 2020).