White-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis cayennensis

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Polytypic: 6 subspecies
  • Authors: Mary Margaret Ferraro



The behavior of White-tailed Nightjar is poorly studied. This nightjar is nocturnal. It forages with sallies from the ground or from perches (Stiles and Skutch 1989, Hilty 2003), but also forages in continuous flight low over open grasslands, "wandering or weaving (almost as though floating) around for several min[utes], apparently capturing flying insects" (Hilty 2003). During the day rests on the ground, in the open or among shrubs or grasses (Haverschmidt 1968, Hilty 2003); rarely perches on branches (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

During the peak of the breeding season, the male may sing steadily for several hours, beginning at dusk (Hilty 2003).


There are no published data on territorial defense, maintenance, or fidelity, or territory or home range size, for White-tailed Nightjar, other than that it "tends to concentrate in favorable areas" (Hilty 2003).

Sexual Behavior

The social system of White-tailed Nightjar has not been described. The male apparently performs a flight display that involves a "wing-clapping knock-knock sound", made by striking the wings together, and which then is followed by an audible wing whirr (Hilty and Brown 1986, Hilty 2003).

Social and interspecific behavior

White-tailed Nightjar is solitary (Hilty 2003).


No reports of predation on White-tailed Nightjar?

Recommended Citation

Ferraro, M. M. (2015). White-tailed Nightjar (Hydropsalis cayennensis), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.whtnig1.01