Caprimulgus europaeus

Range &

Palearctic; in Britain and Ireland range has contracted through this century, to a low of 2500 males on territory in 1981; 2002 census of 3,400 males indicates slight increase or stabilisation of possibly previously underestimated numbers since.

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: formerly widespread on heathland throughout Cornwall, but long decline had brought population down to 13 males by 1981; numbers now more stable with 17 males at five scattered sites in 1993, the largest of which (near St. Ives) held seven territories. There had been a marginal drop by 2004 when 14 territories were held at nine sites. Isles of Scilly: scarce migrant.

Habitat & Ecology

Favours cleared areas in forestry plantations and wooded heathland. Summer visitor May to August.


Loss of heathland habitats has been compensated for by creation of upland forestry plantations. Main cause of the range contraction considered to be climatic, with tendency towards wetter springs in recent decades.


Provision of open areas within upland plantations every five or so years would provide optimum habitats for Nightjars. Protected under Annexe 1 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive. Listed (middle list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).