Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Montane Nightjar (Caprimulgus poliocephalus)


French: Engoulevent d’Abyssinie German: Höhennachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras montano
Other common names: Rwenzori Nightjar (ruwenzorii), Benguela Nightjar (koesteri), Abyssinian Nightjar (poliocephalus)

Caprimulgus poliocephalus


, 1840,

Kulla, Ethiopia


Closely related to C. pectoralis, especially its race nigriscapularis. Race ruwenzorii often treated as a separate species (as in HBW), and guttifer and koesteri have likewise been proposed as two separate species, but the case for lumping is strong#R#R#R#R. Specimens in NHMUK, including the type of ruwenzorii plus poliocephalus, guttifer and koesteri, indicate that there is a N–S stepped cline in quantity of white on outer rectrices, from all white (poliocephalus) to white with small dark base (ruwenzorii) to half-dark/half-white or, in some cases, two-thirds dark/one-third white (guttifer and koesteri); moreover, the distinctiveness of vocalizations is weak#R. Population in Saudi Arabia possibly racially distinct; requires further study. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. p. poliocephalus Rüppell, 1840 – Abyssinian Nightjar – SW Saudi Arabia and NW Yemen, discontinuously through Eritrea#R, C Ethiopia to NE Uganda and N Tanzania.
  • C. p. ruwenzorii Ogilvie-Grant, 1909 – Montane Nightjar – SW Uganda to E DRCongo.
  • C. p. koesteri Neumann, 1931 – W Angola.
  • C. p. guttifer Grote, 1921 – SW Tanzania, N Malawi and NE Zambia; separate population in NE Tanzania.
  • Descriptive notes

    22–24 cm; male 42–55 g, female 41–57 g, by subspecies 37–50 g (nominate), 34·5–55 g (ruwenzorii), 40–50·6 g (... read more


    Song of male is a double-noted whistle, “peuu-eee, pe-uu-uu-uu”, first note undulating... read more


    Mainly found in interior and at edges of all types of montane woodland and forest, including ... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on moths, beetles, termites and grasshoppers; 15 stomachs of ruwenzorii contained Lepidoptera (in nine) and Coleoptera (in... read more


    Poorly documented. Breeds possibly Mar–May in Saudi Arabia, Jan and May in Ethiopia, and Sept–Jan in Sudan, Uganda, Kenya (also... read more


    None documented throughout African range and probably sedentary, although considered to be partial... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common throughout range. Widespread and locally common along W side of Asir Mts, SW Saudi Arabia, where maximum of 16 singing birds along... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Montane Nightjar (Caprimulgus poliocephalus). 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 27 February 2020).