The mysterious Nightjar

Nightjars tend to arrive in Britain from early summer, when the moth population booms and leave at the end of summer. Here in Monmouth, July is the prime time to see them.

These unusual birds have a rather mystical reputation. It used to be believed that the birds would swoops down in the night silently and steel the milk of goats, but we now know that really they just feed on moths.

Unlike most bird species, Nightjars are nocturnal. By day they are camouflaged by their beautifully mottled plumage as they nest on the ground, but by night they can be seen - or more prominently heard, hawking for food. They can usually be found in areas of lowland heath and scrubby vegetation and they are also often found near forestry plantations, where they can nest in the clear fell sites. They can be easily identified by two rather distinctive sounds; the male’s churring song as they perch on tall trees, trying to attract a mate, and when in flight the unusual clapping sound as the birds’ wings slap together. The males have prominent white markings on their tale and wings, so they are easily identified from the females.

After WW2, the Nightjar population was in rapid decline, but due to our public forests being better managed to protect wildlife, the numbers have been slowly increasing again. Why not go on an evening adventure and see the mysterious creatures for yourself!

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