Australian Owlet-nightjar

The common calls consist of a loud grating chirr of either two or three notes, typically "chirr-chirr-chirr".
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
July to December
Clutch Size: 
2 to 5 eggs
28 days
Nestling Period: 
28 days
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is the smallest of the nocturnal birds (night birds) found in Australia. Its large brown eyes are non-reflective when exposed to a torch or spotlight (other nocturnal birds give a red reflection). The Owlet-nightjar has two different plumage colourations: russet-brown (rufous), and the more common grey. In both forms the birds are paler below, and are faintly barred with black. There are two wide black stripes that extend over the head from the top of the eyes, and meet on the back of the neck. The rufous form is restricted to the female birds, which, even in the grey form, tend to be more rufous-tinged than the males. Young Owlet-nightjars resemble adults, but have less distinct black markings.

Where does it live?

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is one of the most common and widespread of Australia's nocturnal birds. It occurs throughout Australia and its islands, as well as southern New Guinea.


The preferred habitat of the Australian Owlet-nightjar is almost any tree-studded area where there are suitable hollows, although open areas are also visited. During the day it roosts in hollow branches and tree trunks. The birds form permanent bonds, and pairs occupy the same territory throughout the year.

What does it do?

Owlet-nightjars feed at night on a variety of insects. Birds will readily take flying prey, or will pounce on prey either on the ground or in trees. Hunting takes place within a territory and normally in pairs. The Owlet-nightjars watch for food while in flight, or by sitting and searching from a suitable perch.


Australian Owlet-nightjars raise one brood per season. Both sexes construct the nest, which is a bed of green leaves, placed in a suitable tree hollow or rock crevice. Both birds also incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.

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