Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Scissor-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis torquata)


French: Engoulevent à queue en ciseaux German: Scherenschwanz-Nachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras tijereta

Caprimulgus torquatus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Species name has normally been given as brasiliana, but this name is based on a drawing and a written description not clearly identifiable as of present species (indeed, some points would appear to preclude this); torquata, proposed by same author on following page of same publication, was used in Brazilian literature until 1966, and should be reinstated#R. Name of S race often misspelt as furcifera, but original name is invariable and present spelling correct#R. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. t. torquata (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – S Suriname, Brazil (S to Mato Grosso and São Paulo) and EC Peru.
  • H. t. furcifer (Vieillot, 1817) – N & E Bolivia, S Brazil, Paraguay, N & C Argentina and Uruguay.
  • Descriptive notes

    25–30 cm (excluding outer tail feathers of male, which reach 27–36 cm in length); male 47–52 g, female 48–75 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upperparts brown... read more


    Song of male is a repetitive series of short “tsip” notes given from perches and... read more


    Typically, forest, woodland and cerrado; also espinilho grassland with scattered... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes beetles, moths, flies, mayflies, bugs, ants and Orthoptera. Foraging methods poorly studied; forages by making flycatching... read more


    Poorly known. Breeds at least Aug–JanChicks recorded in Jan. in SE Brazil; no data from other regions. Territorial. Nest-site in... read more


    Poorly known. Some populations may be partially migratory, e.g. race furcifera ­... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Probably not common in Surinam and possibly restricted to S, where at N limits of range; generally rare in Paraguay, though possibly common locally... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. (2019). Scissor-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis torquata). 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 12 November 2019).