The following is an editted version of two sections of a submission I've
prepared for BARC assessment.
Whilst with George Swann conducting an ornithological survey of
Ashmore Reef in January-February 2005, Paul Ford, an officer on an
Australian Customs Vessel (ACV) advised that when on station at Ashmore Reef
about a year previously he had found a bird that he thought might be an
Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles spp. He had three photographs on print film of the
bird but confirmation from other sources regarding its identity had not been
forthcoming so at my request, he sent me the photographs and details of the
Paul found the bird on the back deck of the ACV 'Storm Bay'
whilst anchored at the inner mooring in the lagoon at Ashmore on 25 December
2003 at about 18.00 Central Australian time (16.30 Western Australian time).
The mooring is less than 1 km from West Island, one of three islands within
the reef. The bird departed next morning at about 08.00 when it flew
eastwards towards Middle Island. The weather during the period immediately
prior to the occurrence was fairly typical for high summer in this tropical
region being fairly benign, mostly sunny with just an occasional shower or
The photographs are large images of the bird in two slightly
different postures taken from slightly different angles showing
dorsal/lateral aspects but apart from some of the breast, virtually none of
the underparts. From the prints, with some difficulty, I identified it as a
Grey (Jungle) Nightjar Caprimulgus indicus, a species not previously
recorded in Australia.
The Grey Nightjar has a widespread breeding range throughout
Asia from India in the west to Japan in the east and from southern Siberia
in the north to Sri Lanka in the south. In some areas, e.g. Japan, (race
jotaka), it is common. The tropical and subtropical population is resident
but the more northerly population is migratory, wintering in SE Asia, the
Philippines and Greater Sundas including Java. There is only one record for
Wallacea (from Halmahera) and one for New Guinea (Irian Jaya). Thus the
species originates in the same area and undertakes a similar migration to
many regular migrants and other vagrants that have occurred in Australia.
Examples of the former group include many waders, Oriental Cuckoo, swifts,
swallows and wagtails. Examples of vagrants include Black-capped Kingfisher,
Eurasian Hobby, Northern Pintail, Brown Shrike, Blue-and-white Flycatcher,
Arctic and Oriental Reed Warblers, White & Black-backed Wagtails,
Red-throated and Pechora Pipits. So its occurrence in Australia could well
have been anticipated.
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza VIC 3930
Ph: (03) 9787 7136
Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)