Grey Nightjar on Christmas Island

Subject: Grey Nightjar on Christmas Island
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Sat, 14 Jan 2012 07:57:24 +0800

On Tuesday night, I tried the Christmas Island airport for nightjars. No response to the call of Savanna Nightjar. But when I played the call of a male Grey Nightjar, a bird flew straight over my head calling loudly but its call was very different. I couldn't get the torch on it fast enough so I did not see it. I could hear it calling over the far side of the airport, and there seemed to be possibly a second bird calling.

No response on Wednesday or Thursday night.

But the other people I had been on the Cocos Islands with arrived yesterday, and we went to the airport at dusk. At about 18:50 after I had played the call of Grey Nightjar, a nightjar 'floated' past. It did not call. We did not get on to it. However 10 or 15 minutes later it flew past again. Again, it did not call. This time we got a small LED torch on it. No easily discernible markings. A medium sized nightjar. We waited about another 20 minutes but did not see it again.

We finally quit and had dinner, and then returned to our accommodation and grabbed our respective field guides of Asian birds. All six of us came to the same conclusion that it was a female Grey Nightjar. The SE Asia field guide by Robson notes that the female Grey Nightjar makes a different call, and the 'description' of the female call is the only nightjar call described in our field guides that could be interpreted to sound like what I heard. I am the only one who heard it call. I have used Google to try to find a recording of a female. xeno-canto has 15 recordings but they are all of males (two had the 'Darth Vader' calls of a hawk-cuckoo in the background).

Does anyone know where I might find a recording of a female Grey Nightjar?

The female Grey Nightjar is the only one mentioned as having a different call.

Does anyone know if females of other nightjars call differently? e.g. Savanna? (has been found on CI before but this bird was larger than a Savanna). Large-tailed? (But I would have expected one of us to see some markings on the tail if not the buff wing patches). Indian? (same about markings). Malaysian Eared? (also no clear markings other than pale collar which maybe one of us could have seen but noone did. also not migratory?). Great Eared? (far too small for this species). Any other nightjar that could migrate to this area? Grey Nightjar migrates to Sumatra and Java. It is a 'jungle' nightjar, and this bird was flying over the vegetation rather than the open grassy areas of the edge of the airport runway.

I head back to Perth today, but hopefully the others will get more details in the next three nights.

Frank O'Connor           Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :

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