Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Mozambique Nightjar (Caprimulgus fossii)


French: Engoulevent du Mozambique German: Welwitschnachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras de Fosse
Other common names: Square-tailed Nightjar, Gabon Nightjar

Caprimulgus Fossii


, 1857,



Closely related to C. climacurus and C. clarus, and all three have frequently been placed in a separate genus, Scotornis. Formerly considered conspecific with C. clarus. Race mossambicus often subsumed within welwitschii, but appears worthy of recognition#R. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. f. fossii Hartlaub, 1857 – N & SW Gabon, and possibly SW Congo.
  • C. f. welwitschii Bocage, 1867 – S DRCongo, N & W Zambia, Angola, N Namibia and N Botswana.
  • C. f. mossambicus W. K. H. Peters, 1868 – SE DRCongo and S Tanzania S to Zimbabwe, Mozambique and NE & E South Africa.
  • C. f. griseoplurus Clancey, 1965 – Kalahari Desert (Botswana) and extreme N South Africa.
  • Non-breeding visitor N to N DRCongo, Uganda and S Kenya.

    Descriptive notes

    23–24 cm; male 54–68 g, female 47–77 g, Sexually dimorphic. Upper­parts generally dark greyish-brown, heavily speckled greyish-white; broad buff or... read more


    Song of male is a distinctive churr that rises in pitch and then levels off, occasionally ending... read more


    Mainly open woodland or scrub, wooded grassland, and sandy country near water: mopane woodland and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes moths, beetles, grasshoppers, winged termites, ants and bugs. Forages by hawking for prey low over ground or water. Also... read more


    Breeds Jun on Pemba I, Oct on Zanzibar, Sept–Dec in S Burundi, S Tanzania and Mozambique, Sept–Nov in Malawi, Zambia and... read more


    Nominate race probably sedentary. Race welwitschii possibly sedentary in parts of range,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Very common to locally abundant throughout much of range. Locally common (perhaps seasonally) in S Kenya; widespread and common in S Zaire, C & S... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. (2020). Mozambique Nightjar (Caprimulgus fossii). 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).