Notice for readers: On March 31, Neotropical Birds will be integrated into the new Birds of the World, a powerful research database offering species accounts for every species on earth. Learn more at While Birds of the World is a subscription service, we remain committed to offering this content to Neotropical Birds contributors and to those unable to pay for it through our scholarship program. Stay tuned.

Pygmy Nightjar Nyctipolus hirundinaceus

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Polytypic: 3 subspecies
  • Authors: Andrea Alfano


Geographic Variation

Three subspecies recognized:

hirundinaceus, described as Caprimulgus hirundinaceus Spix 1825; type locality Rio Solimoes [error, Feira de Sant' Anna, Bahia, Brazil; Hellmayr 1929: 400)

Northeastern Brazil from Piauí to Alagoas and Bahia. Possibly intergrades with cearae in southern Piauí (Cleere 1998).

See Detailed Description.

cearae, described as Nyctipolus hirundinaceus cearae Cory 1917; type locality Quixada, Ceará, Brazil

Occurs in northeastern Brazil from Ceará to extreme northern Bahia.

Similar to nominate hirundinaceus but paler; the belly more rufous (especially in females) and the underparts not as heavily barred with brown. Undertail coverts are sometimes plain. Males have larger white spots on the four or five outer primaries, and entirely or partially white feather shafts (see Cory 1917 and Cleere 1998).

vielliardi, described as Caprimulgus hirundinaceus vielliardi Ribon 1995; type locality Colatina, Espírito Santo, Brazil

Known from one or possibly two specimens from Espírito Santo (Ripon 1995, Cleere 1998), and from sight records from extreme eastern Minas Gerais (Vasconcelos and Lins 1998).

This is the darkest subspecies, with smaller white spots in the primaries., and with the inner four primaries boldly spotted buff on the upper half of the outerwebs (Cleere 1998).

Related Species

For many years hirundinaceus was classified in the genus Caprimulgus, a genus that eventually encompassed a large number of species of nightjars worldwide (Peters 1940, Dickinson 2003). Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, reveals that the broadly defined Caprimulgus of Peters (1940) and other authors is highly polyphyletic (Han et al. 2010, Sigurdsson and Cracraft 2014). Caprimulgus proper is entirely confined to the Old World, and New World species of "Caprimulgus" are split into several clades (Han et al. 2010, Sigurdsson and Cracraft 2014). "Caprimulgus" hirundinaceus is sister to "Caprimulgus" nigrescens (Blackish Nightjar) (Sigurdsson and Cracraft 2014), and both species now are classified in the genus Nyctipolis.

Recommended Citation

Alfano, A. (2014). Pygmy Nightjar (Nyctipolus hirundinaceus), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.