Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

Swamp Nightjar (Caprimulgus natalensis)


French: Engoulevent du Natal German: Natalnachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras del Natal
Other common names: Natal Nightjar

Caprimulgus natalensis

A. Smith

, 1845,

Durban, South Africa


Nominate incorporates possible races chadensis (Sahel zone S to W Uganda), gabonensis (WC Africa) and fulviventris (Angola); carpi and mpasa sometimes likewise synonymized, but appear worthy of recognition#R. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. n. natalensis A. Smith, 1845 – very patchily from E Gambia and S Mali E to SW Ethiopia and S to Gabon, N & E Angola, S DRCongo and E South Africa.
  • C. n. accrae Shelley, 1875 – coastal strip from NC Sierra Leone E to W Cameroon.
  • C. n. mpasa Smithers, 1954 – N Zambia.
  • C. n. carpi Smithers, 1954 – E Angola, SW Zambia, NE Namibia (Caprivi Strip) and N Botswana.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–24 cm; 1 male 86·5 g, 1 female 65 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upperparts brown or greyish-brown, heavily spotted with large, irregularly shaped dark brown marks on... read more


    Song of male is a monotonous “chop, chop, chop, chop” given from ground. Flight call is... read more


    Mainly wet or damp habitats, sparsely vegetated with tufts or clumps of grasses, plants and other... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes moths, termites, bugs and beetles. Foraging methods poorly documented, but recorded hunting around termite hills, pastures... read more


    Breeds from Mar in Sierra Leone, Apr–May in Nigeria, possibly mid-Aug to Oct in SE Gabon, Apr–Jun in W Kenya, Mar–May in... read more


    Poorly known. Both races probably sedentary throughout much of range, although local movements may... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Rare in Gambia, though status uncertain; ­uncommon in Sierra Leone; widespread but mainly in coastal regions in Liberia; locally uncommon on... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. (2020). Swamp Nightjar (Caprimulgus natalensis). 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 29 February 2020).