Cryptic, rare and beautiful

To see this species, the White-throated Nightjar Eurostopodus mystacalis, is very unusual in the Newstead area. To be able to photograph one is a rare and memorable event. Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate to make a number of observations of this stunning spring migrant. It’s cryptic behaviour and camouflaged appearance make it an extremely difficult bird to find. I suspect some locals may have heard its eerie call, described by Pizzey as ‘rising deep ‘kooks’ accelerating into a weird staccato laugh’ – I’d be very interested to hear from you if you think you may have seen or heard a White-throated Nightjar.


White-throated Nightjar, Newstead area, 4th December 2015.



Reference: The Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, Graham Pizzey and Frank Knight, 9th edition (ed. Sarah Pizzey), 2012. Harper Collins Publishers.

15 responses to “Cryptic, rare and beautiful

  1. Congrats on getting great shots of this great bird Geoff.

  2. Do the nightjars always have those “whiskers” near their beaks Geoff? I remember the owlet nightjar has them as well.
    I really enjoy learning of birds that are unknown to me. Thanks for all your great photos.

    • Hi Marie – yes, these are called rictal bristles – many insectivorous birds possess them, apparently as an aid to the manipulation of captured prey.
      Cheers, geoff

  3. A cleverly disguised bird – I would never see it, your photos are great!

  4. I’ve heard them a few years, calling in the bush within a km of our place. It’s always been on moonlit, hot nights, and they seem to be on the move, as its only been for a few consecutive evenings.
    But to actually see one, and get close photos, wow, now that is special indeed.

  5. Brilliant images Geoff. How exciting. Well done

  6. lynette amaterstein

    Fantastic Geoff, I have only ever seen the owlet nightjar. How special is this.
    Thanks Geoff for the pic and the information as well.

  7. Astounding photos. We used to have this thing outside our bedroom window in the Bend of Islands and would hear it regularly at dusk and before dawn. Very rarely caught a glimpse of it however. Usually flying away down the gully away from the house.

  8. Hi Geoff, Nice shots, we have had white throated nightjars around our place in the past. We had one roosting on our block a few years ago. A friend Richard Hodgson took some photos – not terrific though and I posted the sighting on vic birdline. Ours was also roosting on fallen timber, as per the one you’ve photographed. Chris Tzaros visited not long after that and I took him on a tour to some of the spots I had seen them in the Mandurang forest. We’ve heard them calling locally from early Nov, but I haven’t heard them calling this year yet. Actually only heard them a couple of times last year too. Hope this helps. Give me a hoy if you’d like to follow up. Cheers, Phil

  9. We regularly hear White-throated Nightjars from mid spring through summer at our place at spring gully

    Regards Damien

    Sent from my iPhone

  10. I had then nesting at my place in Yandoit and the call is really like a strange laugh. Not sure if they are still there but hope to find out again soon when I move back into my place.

  11. Fantastic encounter and great shots, Geoff!

  12. How close did you get to it and how did you find it? You’re not telling us much. And how did you get close without disturbing it?

  13. Hi Geoff – yes, not much information I’m sorry. They are such a rare bird in these parts that I’ve decided it best to keep the location private. I got to within 8 metres of the bird for these pics. I’ve seen them a few times over the years and can recognise the type of sites that they may be encountered in.
    Cheers, geoff

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