Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Plain Nightjar (Caprimulgus inornatus)


French: Engoulevent terne German: Marmornachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras sencillo

Caprimulgus inornatus


, 1869,

Bogosland, western Eritrea


Thought to be closest to C. stellatus. Birds from SW Ethiopia formerly separated as race ludovicianus, which was sometimes considered a separate species; Niger population formerly separated as race vinaceabrunneus and birds from Ennedi Mts, in S Chad, as malbranti. Variation in plumage coloration, however, is extensive and widespread, and possibly correlated with soil type#R, but no geographical pattern evident. Monotypic.


S Mauritania and N Senegal E to Eritrea, NW Somalia and NW Kenya, and SW Saudi Arabia S into Yemen. Winters from Senegal and Liberia across to SW South Sudan and possibly SW Ethiopia, and S to N DRCongo and Tanzania.

Descriptive notes

22–23 cm; male 33–61 g, female 32–57 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upper­parts and wing-coverts very variable in colour, blackish-brown, brown, greyish-brown,... read more


Song of male is a prolonged, evenly pitched churr, occasionally beginning with a long series of... read more


Mainly savanna with trees and bushes, semi-desert steppes, less dense areas in lush ­savanna... read more

Food and feeding

Poorly documented. Diet includes moths, termites, ants, grasshoppers, antlions, crickets, mantises and beetles. Forages by making... read more


Poorly known. Breeds Apr–Jun in Mali, May–Jun in Niger, Mar–Jun in Ethiopia, Dec to mid-Jun in Somalia, May–Aug in... read more


In Middle East, possibly a breeding summer visitor only in SW Saudi Arabia and Yemen; vagrant... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. In Saudi Arabia, thought to be a summer visitor in small numbers but possibly under-recorded; locally common in Yemen. Generally rather common... read more

Recommended citation

Cleere, N. (2020). Plain Nightjar (Caprimulgus inornatus). 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 24 February 2020).