The Large-tailed Nightjar is a widespread species of nightjar found in from eastern India all the way to northern Australia. The genus name Caprimulgus in Latin means “goatsucker”, which is the older name of nightjars due to the past believe that they sucked milk from goats. The subspecies in the Malay Peninsula and Singapore is bimaculatus.
Like most nightjars, it is a nocturnal and crepuscular species. During daytime, it rest inconspicuously in shady areas along the edges of vegetation or leaf litter. Its cryptic plumage helps in concealing its presence. When an intruder gets too near, it will fly off suddenly to a different spot.
As it is a common resident, it can be found almost anywhere, although it has a distinct fondness for cemetery. Hence the Malay name for it is burung tukang kubur (“gravedigger bird”). Although difficult to see in the day unless disturbed, in the night they are easily heard, with very distinct, monotonous and repetitious calls. Something like ‘chonk-chonk-chonk’ or ‘tok-tok-tok’. It is hard to describe in actual fact, so here is a call recorded by Yong Ding Li in Pulau Ubin.
During the breeding season, the nightjar normally lays two eggs on the ground without a proper nest, a few days apart. When incubating the eggs, the nightjar is even more motionless than usual, to protect the eggs. If an intruder gets really too near, they have been reported to fly a short distance away, and land near enough divert the attention of the intruder. It then act as if it was injured to further lure the intruder away. This broken-wing display is a form of distraction display that is widely utilized by birds that lay eggs on unprotected ground like waders, plovers and nightjars.
A Large-tailed Nightjar family taken at Saddle Club in 2011.