The Nightjar is 24.5-28 cm (9.6-11.0 in) long, with a 52-59 cm (20-23 in) wingspan. The male weighs 51-101 g and the female 67-95 g. The adult of the nominate subspecies has greyish-brown upperparts with dark streaking, a pale buff hindneck collar and a white moustachial line. The closed wing is grey with buff spotting, and the underparts are greyish-brown, with brown barring and buff spots. The bill is blackish, the iris is dark brown and the legs and feet are brown. The flight on long pointed wings is noiseless, due to their soft plumage, and very buoyant.

Habitat and Distribution

The breeding range comprises of northern Europe and Asia north to Lake Baikal and eastern Mongolia. The southern limits are northwestern Africa, Iraq, Iran and the northwestern Himalayas. They are migratory, and most birds winter in Africa south of the Sahara, also Pakistan, Morocco and Israel. The Nightjar is a bird of dry, open country with some trees and small bushes, such as heaths, commons, moorland, forest clearings or felled or newly planted woodland.


The Nightjar feeds on a wide variety of flying insects, including moths, beetles, mantises, dragonflies, cockroaches and flies. It will pick glowworms off vegetation.


There is no nest, and the eggs are laid on the ground among plants or tree roots, or beneath a bush or tree. The site may be bare ground, leaf litter or pine needles, and is used for a number of years. The clutch is usually one or two whitish eggs, rarely unmarked, but normally blotched with browns and greys. Eggs are laid 36-48 hours apart, and incubation, mainly by the female, starts with the first egg. The male may incubate for short periods, especially around dawn or dusk.

Calls and Songs

The male's song is a sustained churring trill, given continuously for up to 10 minutes with occasional shifts of speed or pitch. The female does not sing, but when on the wing, both sexes give a short cuick, cuick call.