Spotting the Spotted Nightjar

4 posts / 0 new
Last post
Woko's picture
Spotting the Spotted Nightjar

On my way to check, as it transpired, the 2.4 mm in the rain guage this morning I was briefly distracted by the call of a number of New Holland Honeyeaters in trees & shrubs about 30 meters away. Almost immediately a reasonably large (compared with a New Holland Honeyeater), generally grey bird with clearly seen white spots towards the end of its wings took off from the ground near where the New Holland Honeyeaters were calling & flew low behind some native vegetation where I lost sight of it. At first I thought it was a Brown Goshawk or Collared Sparrowhawk but then realised the white wing spots weren't a feature of these two species. Besides, these two raptors are significantly larger than the bird I had seen. And the shape was rather different. Then my thoughts excitedly turned to a Spotted Nightjar & my field guide. I'm now very confident that I had indeed seen a Spotted Nightjar.

I chose not to try to locate the bird for a better view fearing that it might be breeding. I understand it usually lays a single egg in bush litter on the ground. The place from which it flew was certainly littered with litter. And on my birdwatching strolls I'll need to be far more alert to areas with lots of bush litter lest I miss another sighting of this declining, well camouflaged species or accidentally tread on a well camouflaged egg.

I've had only two previous sightings of this species in over 33 years: in March 2006 & May 2008. Shortly after the latter sighting I had a report from a local bird watcher that two Spotted Nightjars had been found dead on a neighbourhood road.

My research today tells me that while widely spread across Australia (excluding Tasmania) the Spotted Nightjar is becoming increasingly rare especially in southern Australia due to bushland clearance &, probably, predation by cats & foxes. It is listed on the endangered woodland birds.

It's moments like this that make 33 years of ecological restoration entirely worthwhile here on the south eastern slopes of the Mt Lofty Ranges in SA.

dwatsonbb's picture

What a great sighting, your work is paying off. The creatures of your area are indeed lucky to have someone to look out and advocate for them.

I hope you do catch another view, but only if it is one which doesn't disturb them. Like you have indicated, you will be treading carefully.

Thanks for sharing your observations, they make for interesting reading.

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Woko's picture

Thanks so much, Dale. Fingers crossed that I'll be able to keep the observations coming!

sue818's picture

What a wonderful sighting, Woko, a reward for your efforts. I've seen a Large-tailed Nightjar with 2 young ones (older not chicks) but only after much instruction on exactly where to look ... the camouflage was amazing and they stayed very still. Backed off without disturbing them but they were in the open near a property's roadway! Tread carefully as Dale suggests.

 and   @birdsinbackyards
                 Subscribe to me on YouTube