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Scissor-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis torquata

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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The song of Scissor-tailed Nightjar is described as "a prolonged sequence of tsips ....., one note per second just like a cricket, sometimes for minutes on end" (Sick 1993) and as "a thin, peeping ti" (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010).

For a representative audio recording with sonogram, see audio

This song sometimes is accompanied by "a low raspy rhi rhi-grrr", which may be a separate vocalization or perhaps is a mechanical sound (Lane, in Schulenberg et al. 2010). The song is given both when perched ("perched crosswise on a small branch or other substrate") or in flight, at dusk and dawn (Sick 1993).

Calls of Scissor-tailed Nightjar include a flight call, described as "an extremely high tsig (in flight), sounding like [the] voice of a cricket or bat" (Sick 1993), a low clucking sound, and a low growl that occasionally terminates in a croak (given by a wounded bird, possibly as an attempt to startle a predator; Wetmore 1926).

Additional audio recordings of vocalizations of Scissor-tailed Nightjar can be heard at Macaualay Library, at xeno-canto, and at Internet Bird Collection.

Nonvocal Sounds

Belton (1984) described a display during the male, while perched on the ground, produces a snapping sound with the wings. 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".

Wetmore (1926) reported that this nightjar flushes with a "rattle of wings", although Belton (1984) describes them as silent when flushed. Sick (1993) describes another sound that he belived was produced by the wings, a muffled beat or "a ruffle (bo, bo, bo, bo, bo ...)", produced when in fast pursuit of another individual, or sometimes when on the ground (Sick 1993).

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.