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A photo of a Fiery-necked Nightjar (Caprimulgus pectoralis)
Fiery-necked Nightjar

Fiery-necked Nightjar

Caprimulgus pectoralis

The fiery-necked nightjar, Caprimulgus pectoralis, is a modestly sized bird, with adults typically spanning 23 to 25 centimeters in length. Its plumage is a tapestry of grayish-brown and brownish-white, adorned with a distinctive rufous collar at the nape, which has lent the species its evocative name. A prominent white throat patch and chestnut brown accents around the eyes and shoulders add to its striking appearance. The crown is lightly colored, with a darker central spot, and black markings trace down the scapulas. The underparts are a mottled brown, barred with brownish white, and the tail is of a roughly square shape. The beak is dark, and the eyes are a deep, penetrating black. Sexual dimorphism is present, with males sporting white spots on the primaries and white-tipped outer tail feathers, while females exhibit smaller, buff-colored markings.

Identification Tips

To identify the fiery-necked nightjar, look for the characteristic rufous collar and large white throat patch. The male's white wing spots and tail tips are key differentiators from the female. Note the bird's square-shaped tail and the variegated pattern of its plumage, which provides excellent camouflage against the forest floor.


This terrestrial bird is commonly found in Brachystegia woodland savannas and other deciduous woodlands of southern Africa. It also frequents scrublands with acacia and eucalyptus, and may even be spotted in suburban gardens that are rich in trees.


The fiery-necked nightjar graces a wide range of southeastern Africa, from South Sudan and Kenya to the southern reaches of the continent, including Angola, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. Its presence has also been recorded in parts of central and west Africa.


The fiery-necked nightjar is a creature of habit, returning annually to the same breeding grounds without venturing far from its home range. It is a nocturnal bird, most active at dawn and dusk, and during the breeding season, it becomes less vocal to avoid drawing attention to its nesting sites.

Song & Calls

The nightjar's song is a melodious series of notes, often described as "Good Lord, deliver us." This song is typically heard at twilight, serving as a beacon for mates. Alarm calls, such as the "chuck," alert others to potential danger, while the "wooting" call guides chicks to safety. The young emit a "wee-you" call, which grows louder and longer with age.


Breeding occurs post-dry season, with two clutches laid between August and October. Nests are simple, often just a bare patch of sand adorned with leaf litter, concealed under trees. The eggs are salmon-pink with brown spots, and both parents share incubation duties. The chicks are semi-precocial, gaining independence shortly after hatching.

Similar Species

The fiery-necked nightjar can be confused with other nightjar species, but its distinctive collar and call usually set it apart.

Diet and Feeding

As an insectivore, the fiery-necked nightjar consumes a variety of insects, with a preference for butterflies, moths, beetles, cockroaches, termites, and mantids. It employs "hawking" to catch prey mid-flight and feeds its young only when they grasp the parent's beak.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the fiery-necked nightjar as Least Concern, thanks to its stable population and extensive distribution range.

Fiery-necked Nightjar Sounds

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