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Species Guide

Spot-tailed Nightjar

Hydropsalis maculicaudus

The Spot-tailed Nightjar, Hydropsalis maculicaudus, is a rather cryptic bird, with males typically weighing between 28.3 to 35.2 grams and females slightly lighter at 26.0 to 39.0 grams. Their length ranges from 20.3 to 21.5 centimeters. The plumage is a mottled tapestry of brown, with darker hues adorning the crown and lighter shades on the rump. Buff or tawny spots and bars add to their camouflage. A distinctive feature is the broad cinnamon band across the hindneck.

Identification Tips

To identify the Spot-tailed Nightjar, look for the tawny or rufous face with dark brown speckles and a prominent buff supercilium. The wings bear tawny spots, and the tail is particularly notable with its dark brown feathers, tawny markings, and, in males, white tips tinged with buff. The underparts are a blend of cinnamon to buff on the chin, throat, and breast, transitioning to buff on the belly and flanks.


This nightjar favors a variety of habitats, though it is typically found in areas ranging from lowlands to certain elevations, depending on the region.


The Spot-tailed Nightjar's range is quite fragmented, with populations in southern Mexico, eastern Honduras, northern Nicaragua, and various locales across South America, excluding Chile and Uruguay. Elevational distribution varies from up to 500 meters in Mexico to 1,350 meters in Peru.


The Spot-tailed Nightjar is a nocturnal species, known for its sedentary behavior in South America and migratory patterns in Central America. It forages by sallying from the ground or engaging in low, slow flights.

Song & calls

The nightjar's vocal repertoire includes a high lisping 'tip-SEEEUUEEET' song, a rapid 't-seet t-seet t-seet t-seet' call, and a slightly wailing 'seeeu or see-ee-eeii' in flight.


Breeding seasons for the Spot-tailed Nightjar are not fully defined and vary among populations. They lay their eggs, typically two but occasionally one, directly on the ground without constructing a nest.

Diet and Feeding

An exclusively insectivorous bird, the Spot-tailed Nightjar preys on insects from at least 17 families across six orders, capturing them during its nocturnal forays.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Spot-tailed Nightjar as Least Concern, with a large and stable population and no immediate threats identified.

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Spot-tailed Nightjars on Birda


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