Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Sombre Nightjar (Caprimulgus fraenatus)


French: Engoulevent sombre German: Zügelnachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras oscuro

Caprimulgus fraenatus


, 1884,

Daimbi, Shoa, Ethiopia


Formerly considered conspecific with C. rufigena, and both are closely related to C. europaeus. In the past, birds of Kenya occasionally separated as race keniensis, but probably not sufficiently distinct. Monotypic.


Patchily from Eritrea, Ethiopia and extreme NW Somalia S to NE Tanzania.

Descriptive notes

25 cm; male 55–71 g, female 46–68 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upperparts dark brown, speckled greyish-white and streaked blackish-brown; broad buff or tawny-buff... read more


Song of male is a low, evenly pitched, churr, occasionally interrupted by “kik-wow”,... read more


Typically open, stony bushland and scrubland; also grassland, sage bush, Dodonaea scrub... read more

Food and feeding

Feeds on moths, grasshoppers, bugs and beetles. Forages by hawking for insects.


Breeds May to perhaps Jul in NW Somalia, Feb–May and Nov in W Kenya, Jan–Mar and Sept–Nov in Ethiopia, C & S Kenya... read more


Generally sedentary, though locally migratory in parts of range. Small population occurs as... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened. Few data available; may be locally common in suitable habitat. Uncommon in extreme SE Sudan; not uncommon locally in NW Somalia; widespread and... read more

Recommended citation

Cleere, N. (2020). Sombre Nightjar (Caprimulgus fraenatus). 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 20 February 2020).