The European Nightjar is a summer visitor to South Africa, mainly northern Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo, arriving between September and November and departing again by April. They breed over an enormous area of Eurasia and overwinter in west, east and southern Africa. According to the IUCN, which sites a total population of at least 3-million, the European Nightjar is of least concern, though it also mentions that the population is probably in decline due to habitat loss and pesticide use.
Locally, European Nightjars inhabit savannas, woodlands, exotic plantations and parks. They’re most active just after sunset and again a few hours before dawn, sleeping mostly on tree branches up to 20m high during the day (unlike local nightjars, which always sleep on the ground or on rocks). These roosts are often used continuously and for consecutive years. When they feel threatened they’ll flatten themselves and only take flight when the perceived danger gets very close to them. They feed exclusively on insects caught in flight, especially beetles and moths, and also drink in flight like swifts and swallows do. Adults are about 27cm long and weigh around 67g.
This post was scheduled to publish while we are exploring two of South Africa’s national parks during the South African winter holidays. We will respond to comments on our return. Stay safe and well!