White-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis cayennensis

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


There is little information on the breeding biology of White-tailed Nightjar. Breeding is reported from February-June in Costa Rica (Cleere 1998), with fledglings reported in May (Stiles and Skutch). Breeding in Colombia is believed to occur from March to July in Colombia, based on specimens collected in apparent breeding condition (Hilty and Brown 1986). A nest was reported from Venezuela in early May (Cherrie 1916), and specimens in breeding condition were collected in June and November (Friedmann and Smith 1950). On Trinidad and Tobago, breeding is from January-June (ffrench 1991), and is at least from July-October in Suriname (Haverschmidt 1968). Breeding on Martinique is from January-July (Pinchon 1963).

There is no nest; the eggs are placed directly on the ground and often in the open, in in an open field, in grass, or on gravel, or sometimes near cover or under shrubs (Cherrie 1916, Belcher and Smooker 1936, Haverschmidt 1968, Stiles and Skutch 1989, french 1991). The clutch is two; the eggs are buffy pink or reddish, heavily marked with reddish or purplish brown scrawls (Cherrie 1916, Haverschmidt 1968, ffrench 1991). Cherrie (1916) reported the dimensions of one set of eggs as 17.6 x 24.6 mm and 17.5 x 23.7 mm, which is smaller than the range reported by Haverschmidt (1968): 18.6-19.6 x 25.0-25.5 mm (n = ?).

Only the female incubates (ffrench 1991). The chicks can move a few meters from the nest when only three days old (ffrench 1991). If disturbed at the nest, the female initially sits tight, then performs a distraction display, feigning injury (ffrench 1991). Nothing further is known about the nesting biology of this species.

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