Ladder-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis climacocerca

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors: Maria Smith

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The song of Ladder-tailed Nightjar, not often heard, is described as a slow series of rather sharp tsick! notes” (Hilty 2003); as a rasping kweek note, given in flight, and interspersed with a ringing whistled rattle (mechanical?) (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010); and as "repeated tsip or chit notes" (Maccormick and MacLeod 2004). It is not clear that these descriptions all refer to the same vocalization. The "rasping kweek note" sounds similar to a note ("an excited skeet") given by males in a courtship display (Maccormick and MacLeod 2004; see Sexual Behavior). Possibly Ladder-tailed Nightjar has two songs, one for territorial defense (tsick or tsip notes) and for in courtship (kweek or skeet).

For a representative audio recording with sonogram, see audio

Calls of Ladder-tailed Nightjar are described as krip, krip (Sick 1993) or a chirping chip (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010). These nightjars may give a soft, musical chewit when flushed (Hilty and Brown 1986). The kweek note also may be given when a nightjar is perched (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010). Another call given when perched (but only by the male?), perhaps in alarm, is a repeated chup, accompanied by bobbing (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Ladder-tailed Nightjar can be heard at Macaulay Library and at xeno-canto.

Nonvocal Sounds

A "ringing whistled rattle", sometimes heard during the song, was suspected by Lane to be a mechanical sound (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010). Maccormick and MacLeod (2004) also report a "whistling/humming noise" during the courtship display (see Sexual Behavior), which they infer was produced by the wings.

Recommended Citation

Smith, M. (2015). Ladder-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis climacocerca), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.