Aegotheles – Owlet-nightjars

They are not owls, nightjars, or frogmouth- representing the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover

These nocturnal birds are found predominantly in Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and parts of Indonesia. These elusive birds are known for their distinctive physical characteristics and behaviors that set them apart from other nocturnal avian species.

Owlet nightjars are named for their superficial resemblance to owls (with their large eyes and facial bristles) and nightjars (with nocturnal habits and cryptic plumage). They have small, weak feet as they spend most of their time perched or in flight and rarely walk on the ground. Their large eyes are an adaptation to their nocturnal lifestyle, enabling them to see in low-light conditions when they are most active.

The plumage of owlet nightjars is typically mottled grey or brown, resembling the bark of trees, which helps them to blend into their surroundings and evade predators. This camouflage is so effective that they often go unnoticed, perching motionless during the day in tree hollows or on branches.

As insectivores, owlet-nightjars feed on a variety of nocturnal insects, which they catch in flight using their well-developed sense of sight and hearing. Some species also glean insects from tree trunks and branches, using their bristles around the beak to detect and capture prey.

The evolutionary history of owlet-nightjars is quite fascinating. Morphological and genetic analyses indicate they may share a common ancestor with swifts, yet their behaviors and physical traits show closer similarities to the nightjars. This suggests a complex evolutionary path that scientists are still working to fully understand. Further research into their phylogeny could provide more insights into the evolutionary processes that shape nocturnal bird species.

Owlet-nightjars typically nest in hollows of trees or in other natural cavities, laying a small clutch of eggs. Both parents participate in the incubation and care for the chicks, which are altricial (born in an undeveloped state and requiring care and feeding by the parents).