FEW birds have been given as many country names as the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus) and probably only owls are surrounded with more superstition.
The bird’s generic name Caprimulgus means “goatsucker”, and that was once its common English name. Since ancient times, people have believed that nightjars drink milk from the udders of sleeping goats and cows, infecting them with disease. In Devon, the bird was known as the night swallow, whereas Lancastrians, referring to its wide gape, called it the flying toad.
The nightjar is a bird of the twilight, active mainly at sunset and sunrise, and only flying occasionally during the day. It spends the daylight hours on the ground, preferably in glades or on the edge of woodlands. Its ideal location is among bracken or camouflaged among the “furze” (gorse), hence the names furze owl and fern hawk.
When perched in a tree, a nightjar often positions itself lengthways on a stout branch, eyes half-closed, its small feet hidden and its plumage merging with the tree lichen and bark. This ability to camouflage themselves is similar to that of the nightjar’s relations, the frogmouths. It’s also no coincidence that nightjars have long wings, short beaks and wide gapes, like swifts, for they’re also related.
Worldwide, there are almost 100 species of nightjars, with names ranging from nighthawk (another old UK country name) to American species named after their calls, such as the poorwills, whip-poor-wills and curiously named chuck-will’s-widow. Sexes are often similar. They all have soft-feathered, cryptically patterned plumage and a similar body shape, and a few have long tail feathers. The male breeding plumage of the South African pennant-winged nightjar (Caprimulgus vexillarius) consists of a foot-long pennant on each wing. In the European species, the male has three white spots on its outer primaries and outer tail feathers.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The charm of the English Cinnamon
Despite its long and complicated history, the true Cinnamon canary is still with us – in the hands of a tiny group of breeders. DONALD SKINNER-REID reckons it deserves wider appreciation
Spangles: a personal overview
FRED WRIGHT relates a budgie story of over-exploitation, consequent problems and abundant potential for the future
New converts to old breeds
Old and rare canaries have a reputation for adding fresh interest and challenge to the hobby. PETE HOOK and NICK JOY agree, and explain the birds’ charm to Dave Brown
Themed aviaries are a hit with the public at annual Stafford show
DECORATIVE AVIARY DISPLAYS from a CBS and an online bird keeping advice group were voted in the top three by visitors for the inaugural Stafford Aviary Competition.
Pieds with potential
More than just a lesser variety, the dominant pied will introduce challenge and change into most studs, reckons CLIVE WAKEMAN. Here he discusses pairings to try and others to avoid
Welcome to the club and show pages – the bit that’s all about you Results: convention, specialist & rare and Breeder of the Year
Canaries Month by Month:
With Christmas around the corner, BRIAN KEENAN is well into his winter programme, and reckons he might deserve a nice outcross
The World's Best-Known Hummingbird?
Intensively studied, the gem-like Anna’s hummingbird is a welcome visitor to the gardens of America’s most populous state: California. Bill Naylor investigates its life history
The truth about the ‘flying toad'
Odd local names and weird superstitions can’t hide the beauty and elegance of the nightjar, a species that has made a fascinating subject in a few zoo collections, reveals BILL NAYLOR
The talent behind Pilsen Zoo
Rosemary Low meets the supremely gifted TOMÁS PES, the extraordinary leading spirit at one of Europe’s foremost zoos
WHEN IS ALL THIS going to be over?
“Put It on the List”
I went over everything Alex needed to do while I was away. Burp the pickles. Water the plants. Drain the compost. All he said was…
UBER TO RECRUIT 20,000 UK DRIVERS ON POST-LOCKDOWN DEMAND
Uber plans to recruit 20,000 more drivers in the United Kingdom to help fill swelling demand for rides as the country’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease.
Secret Pentagon Warning
U.S. BRACES FOR WORLD WAR 3!
‘BRITCOIN' DIGITAL CURRENCY BEING CONSIDERED BY UK
British authorities are exploring the possibility of creating a new digital currency that Treasury chief Rishi Sunak touted as “Britcoin.”
CHEF JUDY JOO: We'll Be Back STRONGER THAN EVER
THE CELEBRITY COOK AND RESTAURATEUR TALKS ABOUT THE IMPACT OF COVID ON THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY— AND WHAT DINING OUT WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE FUTURE.
The U.K. Wants to Clean Up Space
The amount of debris in orbit is an increasing danger—and a potential market opportunity
Bumper UK race fleets forecast
A bumper racing season in the UK is being predicted this summer as the easing of restrictions to social gatherings meets pent up appetite for competitive events. The largest is likely to be the Round the Island Race, which takes place on 3 July, followed by Cowes Week and the Rolex Fastnet Race in August, both of which could see boosted fleet numbers.
EPIC GAMES COMPLAINS ABOUT APPLE TO UK COMPETITION WATCHDOG
Epic Games submitted a complaint this week about Apple’s alleged “monopolistic practices” to the U.K. competition watchdog, which is investigating the iPhone maker over concerns it has a dominant position in app distribution.
There Must Have Been Something in the Water
If The Beatles never happened, if the British invasion never occurred, then music fans around the world would more than likely never have been exposed to some of the finest white blues singers that the U.K. produced between 1964 and 1970.