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Systematic classification and distribution
Species: C. europaeus Linnaeus, 1758
The nightjar (also known as calcabotto, European caprimulgo and night owl) is present throughout Europe, in North Africa and in western and central Asia. During the winter he visits all of Africa and northwest of India.
In Italy it is widespread throughout the peninsula, arrives in spring and leaves again in autumn, rarely some individuals remain to winter.
Local subspecies lay their eggs throughout Europe with the exception of Iceland, Scotland, southern Portugal and the Peloponnese. The species is also represented in most of the Mediterranean islands. In Scandinavia, only the south is populated. In Central Europe it is a rare bird spread like a leopard, it is found both in Spain and in the Eastern European states.
- C. europaeus: the nominal form hatches the eggs in the regions located further north of the aforementioned soils. To the east, their hatching grounds extend to central Asia, up to the upper reaches of the Jenisej.
- C. meridionalis: the spread of this subspecies is found in the south and begins in Spain and the Maghreb, includes southern Europe including most of the Mediterranean islands and reaches the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea through the Black Sea territory.
- C. sarudnyi: the main area of diffusion of this subspecies is found in the northern steppes of Central Asia, especially in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. To the south of this area is the territory of:
- C. unwini: this smaller and lighter subspecies has hatching territory of northern Iraq and Iran, east to Tien Shan through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
- C. plumipes: the hatching territories of this subspecies are located in northwestern Mongolia and northwestern China.
- C. dementievi: their areas of diffusion expand to the east and go from Lake Baikal to northwestern Mongolia.
Goatsucker - Caprimulgus europaeus
Goatsucker - Caprimulgus europaeus (photo www.cesarebrizio.it)
Goatsucker - Caprimulgus europaeus (photo Richard Ives)
Weight: 45-95 gr
The nightjar is a bird the size of a blackbird, or a little more, with a large, flat and very short head but a very wide beak surrounded by a down (the filopiume that are used to catch insects in flight) at the base of the beak. The short paws with their elongated middle finger are almost invisible during a field observation. The plumage, very mimetic on the ground, has brown and gray tones, with lighter streaks and darker patches. The wings are exceptionally long however also quite narrow; in the male there are white spots in the wings and also the lapice of the external helms of the long tail are white while the central ones are dark black and brown. The females lack the distinctive features of the wings and tail. During the flight, the bird appears significantly larger and sickle-shaped. The differences between the subspecies are not evident. The species of the south and south-east are a little smaller and lighter in the coloring of the plumage and less rich in contrast. The subspecies of Central Asia closely resemble the nominal form instead.
Hatch twice a year. The female lays one or two eggs, preferably under the bushes whose branches descend to the ground. The incubation period lasts 17 days; the parents rest all day on the nestlings, even when they are already ready to fly. Of twilight and nocturnal habits, he travels the groves with rapid and safe flight in search of moths and other nocturnal insects, which constitute his usual food. The preys are swallowed on the fly in the huge beak, surrounded by filiform feathers that prevent it from escaping.
At other times, it settles on the bare ground or on a branch with good visibility from which it shines short flights, often with incredible trajectories, to grab the insects that its big eyes have perceived in the dark.