Nightjar is Bird of the Year 2019

The bird of the year is the nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus). The twenty-fifth  Bird of the Year has a hidden way of life, is active mainly in the dark  and often remains mysterious. In 2019 the BirdLife Estonia introduces the nightjar, describing its habitats and indicating  factors that influence its numbers.

At present the nightjar is in its wintering areas in south-eastern and western Africa, returning to Estonia at the end of April. The thrush-sized bird, living in pine forests, prefers to be active at night. In daylight it keeps immobile, blending into the surrounding environment which is why so few have seen a nightjar. Its peculiar purring call that can be heard in warm summer nights is better known.

Nightjars are rarely seen during daylight.
Photo: Reet Sau 

In Estonia an estimated 10 000 – 20 000 nightjar pairs nest. As a species occurring only in low numbers it belongs to the Protection Category III. The main factors influencing its abundance are thought to be the loss of nesting habitats due to intense forest management and the decrease of insects for feeding caused by the use of pesticides and also killing by predators.

"Obviously many people have heard the purring song of the nightjar or noticed it on roads at night catching moths in the rays of headlights but how the species gets on is still not known at present,” Aarne Tuule, leader of the bird of the year project motivated the choice. ”A factor that significantly affects the abundance of the species is the death of nightjars on motor roads. The killing of birds by traffic is little studied in Estonia and because of this we will pay  attention to this already early in the nightjar year.”

Nightjar roadkill. 
Photo: Liis Keerberg

In spring the BirdLife Estonia will begin to collect observation of nightjars  to clarify the distribution of the species and its use of habitats in Estonia. The activities plan also includes lecture evenings introducing the nightjar and summer night excursions to look for nightjars along nature trails. There will be special activities for children and young people.

The web page below has information on the nightjar:

The BirdLife Estonia elects  a bird of the year from 1995 onwards. The aim of choosing a bird of the year is to introduce a bird species or group of species occurring in Estonia to the public, also to engage all with an interest in nature in the study and protection of the elected species.

More information:
Aarne Tuule, manager of the Bird of the Year project
5800 2869

Translated by Liis from Looduskalender