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Scissor-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis torquata

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Max Witynski



The behavior of Scissor-tailed Nightjar is poorly studied. This nightjar is nocturnal, and forages with sallies from perches or from the ground (Sick 1993, Cleere 1999, Ingels et al. 1999). During the day rests in the shade on spots of bare earth, singly or in groups of up to three (Wetmore 1926). When flushed, flies erratically for 20-30 m before dropping to ground behind vegetation or perching on stump or log (Wetmore 1926, Belton 1984). Bobs up and down or opens and closes mouth when distressed (Wetmore 1926).


Scissor-tailed Nightjar is territorial (Cleere 1998), but there are no published data on territory or home range size. Cleere (1998) mentions that males make a "wing-clap" in flight "when chasing off intruding males".

Sexual Behavior

The social system of Scissor-tailed Nightjar has not been described. The male performs a wing clapping display while perched in an open space on the ground (e.g., in the middle of a dirt road). In this display, the male stretches the wings almost straight up, then closes them rapidly, producing a series of up to five "rapidly repeated sounds between a thump and a snap" (Belton 1984). Sometimes the displaying male is still, but at times the bird seems to lift slightly off the ground. Also periodically flies a few meters, producing a sound on landing, and then jerking the head forward and up, repeated once or twice (Belton 1984). May alternate between a display site on the ground and one on a low limb (Ingels et al. 1999). Display can last twenty minutes (Belton 1984).

Social and interspecific behavior

Little information; presumbably primarily is solitary.


No reports of predation on Scissor-tailed Nightjar?

Recommended Citation

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