White-tailed Nightjar Hydropsalis cayennensis

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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The song of White-tailed Nightjar is described as "a high, drawn-out spit-cheeeeuua, [the] 1st note faint, [the] last rising then falling" (Hilty and Brown 1989); as "a long high-pitched whistle, first rising, then going down in pitch at the end, introduced by a short dry note (inaudible at a distance), tk chweeeeeeea or pick, speeeeeea" (Ridgely and Gwynne 1989); as "a high, thin pt-cheeeeeeeee, the second note a long-drawn-out, rising whistle that falls slightly at end" (Stiles and Skutch 1989).

For a representative audio recording with sonogram, see audio

Calls of White-tailed Nightjar include "a scratchy wheer in flight" (Stiles and Skutch 1989); "a high see-see, irregularly spaced", also given in flight (ffrench 1991); a thin tic-tic, given when flushed (ffrench 1991); and a soft wut-wut-wut, given by the female as she approaches the chicks upon returning to the nest (Cleere 1998).

Audio recordings of vocalizations of White-tailed Nightjar can be heard at Macaulay Library, at xeno-canto, and at Internet Bird Collection.

Nonvocal Sounds

The flight display of male White-tailed Nightjar has not been described in detail, but apparently 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).

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