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Species Guide

Freckled Nightjar

Caprimulgus tristigma

The Freckled Nightjar, known scientifically as Caprimulgus tristigma, is a robust nightjar species with a commanding presence. Its plumage is a masterful blend of dark gray or near-black tones, which from afar may seem unremarkable. However, upon closer inspection, one can discern a delightful speckling of white, cinnamon, and pale buff across the upperparts, a testament to its name. The underparts are adorned with a dark brown hue, elegantly barred with white and cinnamon, providing the bird with exceptional camouflage against the rocky landscapes it frequents.

Identification Tips

Sexual dimorphism is present in this species, with males sporting small white spots on the four outer primaries and white tips on their two outer tail feathers. Females, on the other hand, have 3 to 4 smaller white spots on their outer primaries and lack the white tail feather tips. When perched with wings folded, these white markings are typically concealed from view.


The Freckled Nightjar is a denizen of rocky outcrops and surfaces, often found roosting on bare or lichen-covered rocks. It is equally at home in open or vegetated areas and can withstand surface temperatures reaching a scorching 60°C.


This species boasts a wide, albeit patchy, distribution across the Afrotropics. It is a year-round resident in the colder, drier regions of southern Africa, with notable populations in Zimbabwe, northern and eastern Botswana, western Mozambique, and eastern South Africa.


Crepuscular and nocturnal by nature, the Freckled Nightjar spends its days in repose on rocks, emerging at dusk to forage. It is not uncommon to find these birds occupying roadways at night. Remarkably, they have the ability to enter a state of torpor to conserve energy during the harshest parts of the year.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the Freckled Nightjar is quite varied. Its song, often heard in the early morning, evening, or under the glow of a moonlit sky, is a series of two or three "whow" notes, reminiscent of a distant dog's bark. The flight or threat call is a low-frequency "wock" sound, while the alarm call is a yelping "gobble." For distraction displays, they emit soft "grok-grok" grumbles.

Feeding and Diet

The Freckled Nightjar preys on a variety of flying insects, including moths, termites, and chafers. Its impressive gape allows it to swallow insects up to 3.5 cm in length whole. It hunts at twilight, dawn, and occasionally on moonlit nights, capturing its prey in short flights before returning to its perch.


Monogamous and exhibiting strong site fidelity, this species often reuses the same nesting sites annually. Nests are built in natural hollows within rock formations, sometimes filled with wind-blown debris. The breeding season varies by region, with egg-laying occurring at different times across its range. Females lay two eggs, which are incubated for 18.5 to 20 days. Both parents are involved in caring for the highly mobile and well-camouflaged chicks, which fledge at around 19 to 20 days old.

Conservation status

The Freckled Nightjar is classified as Least Concern, with a stable population that is relatively common throughout most of its range. The global population size has not been quantified, but there are no immediate threats that suggest a decline.

Freckled Nightjar Sounds

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