Family Nightjars (Caprimulgidae)

Least Concern

White-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis cayennensis)


French: Engoulevent coré German: Weißschwanz-Nachtschwalbe Spanish: Chotacabras coliblanco

Caprimulgus cayennensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,



Placed in genus Antrostomus by some authors#R. Previously considered closely related to, or even conspecific with, Eleothreptus candicans (both taxa were at the time placed in Caprimulgus); later studies, however, have indicated that the two are not close#R#R. Race leopetes sometimes treated as a synonym of nominate#R. Six subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. c. albicauda (Lawrence, 1875) – Pacific slope from Costa Rica to N Colombia (E to Magdalena).
  • H. c. insularis (Richmond, 1902) – extreme N Colombia (Guajira), NW Venezuela, Leeward Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire) and Margarita I.
  • H. c. manati (Pinchon, 1963) – Martinique.
  • H. c. leopetes (Jardine & Selby, 1830) – Trinidad (including Bocas Is) and Tobago (including Little Tobago).
  • H. c. aperta (J. L. Peters, 1940) – W Colombia S to N Ecuador (Imbabura).
  • H. c. cayennensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1789) – EC & NE Colombia E through Venezuela, the Guianas and extreme N Brazil (N Roraima, NW Amapá).
  • Descriptive notes

    20–22·5 cm; male 30–40 g, female 25–46 g. Sexually dimorphic. Upper­parts greyish brown, streaked blackish brown; broad tawny-buff nuchal collar... read more


    Advertising call of male is a series of short, high-pitched whistles: “pt-cheeeeeee”.... read more


    Typically open grassland and savanna with scattered vegetation, scrubland and along ­forest... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on moths, beetles, bugs, damselflies, crickets and grasshoppers. Forages by making short sallies from ground, or by hunting low over... read more


    Breeds Feb–Jun in Costa Rica, Mar–Jul in Colombia, possibly Apr–Jun in Venezuela, Feb–Dec in Surinam, Jan–Jun... read more


    Largely sedentary, although has occurred as a vagrant on Puerto Rico.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Fairly common throughout much of range, though local and uncommon in Panama, and scarce on Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire (... read more

    Recommended citation

    Cleere, N. (2020). White-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis cayennensis). 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 22 February 2020).