Caprimulgus is a large and very widespread genus of nightjars, medium-sized nocturnal birds with long pointed wings, short legs and short bills. Caprimulgus is derived from the Latin capra, "nanny goat", and mulgere, "to milk", referring to an old myth that nightjars suck milk from goats. The common name "nightjar", first recorded in 1630, refers to the nocturnal habits of the bird, the second part of the name deriving from the distinctive churring song.[1]

Large-tailed nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Strisores
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae
Subfamily: Caprimulginae
Genus: Caprimulgus
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Caprimulgus europaeus (European nightjar)
Linnaeus, 1758

37, see text.



Caprimulgus nightjars are found around Afro-Eurasia and Australasia, and like other nightjars they usually nest on the ground. They are mostly active in the late evening and early morning or at night, and feed predominantly on moths and other large flying insects.

Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and their soft plumage is cryptically coloured to resemble bark or leaves. Some species, unusually for birds, perch along a branch, rather than across it, which helps to conceal them during the day. Temperate species are strongly migratory, wintering in the tropics.

Caprimulgus species have relatively long bills and rictal bristles. Many have repetitive and often mechanical songs.

Taxonomy edit

The genus Caprimulgus was introduced in 1758 by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae.[2] The type species is the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).[3] The name is the Latin word for a nightjar; it combines capra meaning "nanny goat" and mulgere meaning "to milk".[4] The myth that nightjars suck milk from goats is recounted by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History: "Those called goat-suckers, which resemble a rather large blackbird, are night thieves. They enter the shepherds' stalls and fly to the goats' udders in order to suck their milk, which injures the udder and makes it perish, and the goats they have milked in this way gradually go blind."[5]

Species edit

The genus contains 38 species.[6]

References edit

  1. ^ "Nightjar". Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 193.
  3. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1940). Check-List of Birds of the World. Vol. 4. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 196.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 90. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ Rachham, H. (1967). Pliny Natural History III Libri VIII-XI. The Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. pp. 366–367.
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Frogmouths, Oilbird, potoos, nightjars". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 August 2021.