The Sherwood Forest Nightjar Project

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What's on the menu tonight?

Nightjars are agile twilight hunters

Twilight hunters

Having spent the day motionless and hidden nightjars begin to feed in the twilight. 

Nightjars feed almost entirely on night flying insects, mostly moths, but they have been seen taking caterpillars from the leaves of trees.

In the dim twilight they spot their prey with their large sensitive eyes. It is thought that they see the fluttering moths silhouetted against the night sky.

Fast and agile

With their long, tapering wings and their long tails, nightjars are very fast and agile in the air and can out-manoeuvre moths and catch them in mid air in their super-wide mouths. 

It is thought that the whiskers around their gapes help to guide the prey into their mouths.


Part 1

Find pictures of each of the prey species mentioned on the nightjar's menu above, perhaps using Wikipedia. You can then print them out, writing their names underneath, and make a graphic diagram of the diet of the nightjar by arranging them round a picture of a nightjar in flight. This could be an individual piece of work on A4 paper, or you could collaborate with your table to make a large poster.

Part 2

The poster was the easy bit - this is where it gets a bit tougher. Think about this question and see what answers you can come up with in your group:

Why does the nightjar hunt in the evening and the night and not the daytime?


Think of as many answers to this question as you can and note them all down - share the answers you have and agree on the wording of an answer that you could write out and attach to the poster.

Pine-hawk moth  (Sphinx pinastri ) 

© entomart

Cockchafer or Maybug (Melolontha scarabaeidae)

cc Wikimedia