The Silky-tailed Nightjar is a rare and relatively large, dark nightjar of South America. Two subspecies occur with separate populations in the Amazon Basin and in the Atlantic Forest, mostly in primary tropical rainforest and subtropical evergreen forest. Like most neotropical nightjars, it is more often heard than seen. During the breeding season, these extremely cryptic birds may call only once from dusk through dawn, which adds to their elusiveness.
Although there were only a handful of museum specimens since John Cassin described the species in 1849, its song wasn’t recorded until 1973, when Ben B. Coffey, Jr. and his wife recorded an individual near Yarinacocha, Ucayli, Perú. At the time they were unable to identify it solely by its voice and it remained a “mystery” until Robert Straneck recorded and collected an individual in northern Argentina in 1986.
At Cocha Cashu Biological Station (CCBS) in Manu National Park, Madre de Dios, Perú, a residential population of Silky-tailed Nightjars has been studied since 1994. The forest surrounding the Station is undisturbed lowland floodplain and evergreen tropical forest (Terborgh et. al. 1984) with mature, high canopy forest to the north and younger forest to the south. This population consists of at least 10 breeding pairs that prefer the open, older forest in the northern portion of the study area. Two-egg clutches are placed directly on the ground; chicks are semi-precocial and are mobile within 24 hrs of hatching. Both adults share incubation and brooding duties with the female on the nest during the day and the male on at night.