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Species Guide

Rufous Nightjar

Antrostomus rufus

The Rufous Nightjar, Antrostomus rufus, is a nocturnal bird with a predominantly reddish-brown plumage. It measures 25 to 30 cm in length and weighs between 88 to 98 grams. A distinctive buff collar graces the sides and back of its neck, and a white band is present under the throat. The upperparts feature dark brown streaks, while the wings are adorned with dark brown spots and bars. Unlike many of its relatives, this species lacks white in the wings. Males and females can be distinguished by the tail feathers; males have large white spots at the end of the outer three pairs, whereas females exhibit pale buff tips.

Identification Tips

To identify the Rufous Nightjar, look for its reddish-brown coloration, buff collar, and the absence of white in the wings. The male's white tail spots and the female's buff-tipped tail feathers are also key characteristics. The bird's size and speckled underparts with dark brown and white may aid in identification.


The Rufous Nightjar occupies a variety of landscapes, ranging from dry scrublands to lush primary and secondary forests. Its habitat spans from the arid Gran Chaco to the humid Amazon basin.


This species has a highly discontinuous distribution across Latin America, from southern Costa Rica and Panama, through the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela, to Trinidad, and across South America in countries like Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. It is also found on the island of St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles.


The Rufous Nightjar is crepuscular, most active during twilight hours at dawn and dusk. During the day, it roosts on low perches or on the ground under dense vegetation.

Song & Calls

The Rufous Nightjar's vocalizations are varied, with descriptions such as "a loud, staccato chup, whi-whi-RIoh" or "chuck whip-his-WIDdow," and "an energetic, rhythmic chuck, wick-wick-WEEoo." These songs are typically delivered from perches at varying heights.


Breeding behavior includes laying one or two eggs directly on the ground, often concealed by low vegetation. The female takes on the responsibility of incubating the eggs during daylight hours.

Diet and Feeding

While details are sparse, the Rufous Nightjar's diet consists of insects, which it catches in flight from a low perch such as a branch or fencepost.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Rufous Nightjar as Least Concern. It boasts a vast range and population, though there is a belief that the population may be in decline. Currently, no immediate threats to the species have been identified.

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Rufous Nightjars on Birda

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Chris Bell
04 Sep 2023 - 7:45pm

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