Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Rufous-cheeked Nightjar (Caprimulgus rufigena)


French: Engoulevent à joues rousses German: Rostwangen-Nachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras carirrojo

Caprimulgus rufigena

A. Smith

, 1845,

Eastern Cape Province, South Africa


Formerly considered conspecific with C. fraenatus, and these two are closely related to C. europaeus. In the past, birds of Angola occasionally separated as race quanzae, but probably not distinct from nominate. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. r. damarensis Strickland, 1853 – W Angola, Namibia (except coastal region), W & C Botswana and NW South Africa.
  • C. r. rufigena A. Smith, 1845 – SE Angola, S Zambia, Zimbabwe and E Botswana S to S, C & NE South Africa; possibly also S Mozambique.
  • Winters mainly in Nigeria and Cameroon.

    Descriptive notes

    23–24 cm; male 48–65 g, female 46–66 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upper­parts greyish-brown streaked blackish-brown; narrowish buff or tawny-buff nuchal... read more


    Song of male is a continuous, evenly pitched churr, often commencing with “a-whoop” notes and... read more


    Mainly open wooded savanna, miombo woodland, woodland edges and clearings, semi-arid acacia... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on moths, beetles and other insects. Foraging methods not fully documented, although large numbers of birds may congregate where food... read more


    Breeds Sept–Nov in Angola and Zambia, Sept–Jan in Botswana, and Sept–Dec in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Monogamous;... read more


    A breeding visitor to much of S & SW Africa, after which moves N to winter in WC Africa. Main... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Frequent to locally common in suitable habitat during breeding season. Few data available on population levels; in S Zambia, common... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. (2020). Rufous-cheeked Nightjar (Caprimulgus rufigena). 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).