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Spotted Nightjar

Eurostopodus argus

The Spotted Nightjar, known scientifically as Eurostopodus argus, is a captivating bird of the nightjar family, Caprimulgidae. This species is distinguished by its larger size and more vibrant plumage compared to its congeners, adorned with an intricate pattern of flecks and spots that provide superb camouflage against the ground.

Identification Tips

When observing the Spotted Nightjar, look for the large white spots on the four outer primary feathers of its wings, a feature that sets it apart from the Large-tailed Nightjar, which has white tail markings. Adult Spotted Nightjars measure 25-28 cm in length, with males typically weighing between 81-132 grams and females slightly less, at 74-123 grams. Their wingspan ranges from 20.5-23.9 cm, and they possess a bill length of 1.5-2.5 cm.


The Spotted Nightjar thrives in a variety of environments, from open forests and woodlands to scrublands, spinifex, tussock grasslands, and even mangroves. It favors warmer and drier regions over cooler, more humid climates.


This species is widespread across mainland Australia, though it is notably absent east and south of the Great Dividing Range and is not found in Tasmania. Some populations are nomadic or sedentary, while others migrate to northern Australia or Indonesian islands during winter.


Nocturnal and insectivorous, Spotted Nightjars spend their days roosting on the ground, rarely perching in trees. They are adept at catching insects mid-flight and are known to drink while flying, skimming the surface of water bodies. They can be seen hawking insects around artificial lights or campfires at night.

Song & Calls

The Spotted Nightjar's breeding call is a series of 9-12 ascending notes followed by gobbling sounds. On the ground, they may emit frog-like croaks and low coos. Their territorial song is melodic, lasting 4-6 seconds, with a rapid succession of high-pitched double notes.


Breeding typically occurs from September to December, with the timing varying by region. The Spotted Nightjar does not construct a nest; instead, it lays a single, well-camouflaged egg directly on the ground. Both parents share incubation duties, and chicks are precocial, walking soon after hatching.

Similar Species

The Spotted Nightjar can be confused with the Large-tailed Nightjar and the White-throated Nightjar but can be distinguished by its unique wing spots and lack of white tail markings.

Diet and Feeding

This species primarily feeds on insects, capturing them in flight. Their diet includes a variety of bugs, beetles, moths, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, lacewings, and mantids.

Conservation Status

The Spotted Nightjar is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. However, there are concerns about population declines in southern regions due to habitat loss, predation by feral animals, and other environmental pressures. It is listed among Australia's declining woodland birds.

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Spotted Nightjars on Birda

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Dirty Bustard
19 Apr 2024 - 8:51am

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