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NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Nightjar… The night star

They are excellent at catching insects in flight

In Summary

• The reddish reflection of their eyes causes them to be easily seen

Montane nightjar
Montane nightjar
Image: GARETH JONES

For those who enter the park very early when the gates open at 06h00, it is an opportunity to possibly have a glimpse of some of the night creatures, when it is still quite dark, just before sunrise.

One of the creatures is the nightjar. They can often be seen sitting in the road, and if your headlights are on, the reddish reflection of their eyes causes them to be easily seen before they flutter away at the noise of the vehicle.

For those of us who have stayed in the African Bushveld at times, ideally camping, or in a quite lodging, the sounds of the night are always interesting and at times peacefully soothing, including listening to the nightjars calling.

The various species of nightjars all have wonderful call sounds. For example, the Fiery Necked Nightjar makes a noise sounding like the therapeutic whistled version of “good-Lord-deliver-us”, as people relax and enjoy the evening.

But what really makes the nightjars amazing is what most of us never see. They are excellent at catching insects in flight. They have large eyes for increased night vision and a large, wide mouth with modified feathers around it that acts as a kind of “scoop net” to increase their success when catching insects in mid-flight.

Even though their feather colours are seemingly drab and boring, their bush camouflage is excellent. They are one of our best-feathered friends as they reduce and control populations of insects. Yes, they truly are night stars!

I always find it a joy to see birds when driving in the park. God has created so such amazing diversity. So remember when we go on into the Nairobi National Park with the attitude of “bird watching”, all too often, the larger species like rhino or lions just “get in the way!“

For more information on the park link to the following website: www.kws.go.ke