The Sherwood Forest Nightjar Project

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Meet the Nightjar

Vital statistics

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 up to 28cm
 male - 51-101g
 female - 67-95g
Life expectancy
 up to 11 years
Sherwood - approx 70 pairs
UK - approx 3,400 males
Distance travelled on annual migration
The round trip from Sherwood to sub-Saharan Africa and back is approx 17,000km

Download the 

Nightjar Fact File 

Asking questions ...


Now go to the Learning Zones 

... to find the answers to these and other questions that will help you to complete your Nightjar Fact File.


Above Typical nightjar behaviour - sitting motionless on a branch using the cryptic colouring of its plumage as camouflage.    (Photo by Dûrzan Cîrano via cc license)

Pictures showing details of the nightjar's distinctive plumage (Click to enlarge)



The nightjar's diet consists of a wide range of flying insect including larger moths which they catch on the wing at dusk, for example, the oak eggar moth pictured here. 

See the Investigation in 'Feeding' for more thoughts on feeding and diet.

The nightjar is very particular about where it lives. It needs lowland heaths and young forestry plantations. The picture shows an area of Sherwood Forest where the nightjars live in the summer.

See the Investigation in 'Predators and Problems' for more on habitat and habitat loss.


Links to on-line learning resources

Wildscreen Arkive

Biological information on the nightjar with high quality stills and movies. 

Project Nightjar

This project is a collaboration between the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge. High quality interactive information and activity pages for KS2 and KS3.  

British Trust for Ornithology

Excellent graphic showing the results of the GPS tracker study of the migration of nightjars. This page also includes details of the study and the data that was collected.


Information showing population status and distribution in UK of the nightjar.

Brecknock Wildlife Trust

This link takes you to the details of the Brecknock WT's tracking work. There is also information on the folklore of the nightjar.

The Wildlife Trusts Nightjar Page

A wealth of information about the biology and habitats of nightjars with excellent illustrations.

Useful words

crepuscular hunting

Crepuscular is an adjective used to describe a creature that is active in twilight. The nightjar is a crepuscular bird.

cryptic colouration

This adjective cryptic is used to describe the colouration of the nightjar - the colours and dapples of the plumage break up the bird' s outline against the background of leaves and branches. This anti-predator camouflage is doubly effective when the bird sits motionless on a stone, or branch of a tree or in leaf litter.


This is an area of a forest where the trees have been cleared allowing smaller bushes and plants to spring up. This is the kind of habitat that nightjars now favour, they like an area with small trees with lower vegetation in between.


This is the place in which a creature prefers to live because it has the right food, shelter and nesting places.