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The enigmatic White-throated Nightjar

Since 2007 we’ve been monitoring occurrences of the cryptic and unpredictable White-Throated Nightjar on and near the Co-op. Each season, from September to March, our residents listen for the birds’ distinctive calls, recording the time and direction from which it’s heard. Monitoring in 2020 and 2021 has also included AudioMoth sound recorders provided by Nillumbik Shire Council.

You can hear the White-Throated Nightjar sound recording here.

These enigmatic birds usually arrive in late September or October to start breeding, with hatching occurring from November to February. Successful breeding events have been recorded in 2014, 2019 and 2020, the closest known records to Melbourne.

These records are significant for the Bend of Islands and the Co-op, proving the success of our 'residential conservation' zoning and the ecological importance of our area of high biodiversity.

White-Throated Nightjars nest on the ground in open woodland or on rocky slopes, but they are very hard to spot because they blend in so well. Unfortunately, this means they and their chicks are prey to foxes, Currawongs and Goshawks.

Above: adult with chick

In 2020 the birds arrived earlier than ever, in fact ten days earlier than ever recorded before. Breeding took place in October and the egg hatched mid-November. Devastatingly, the chick was taken, probably by a fox. Later fox control in the general area yielded seven foxes in 10 days, indicating a very high density of foxes in the area.

Above: pics 1 & 2 egg site photos 2020-11-16; pic 3 2014 chick at 1-day old; pic 4 2020 chick head

There is little doubt that habitat loss is a serious threat to the on-going well-being of the Nightjars in the peri-urban fringes of Melbourne.

The 2019-2020 fires in NSW and Queensland will have severely affected the sedentary populations in these areas, thereby increasing the importance of the migratory population that comes to Victoria each summer from North Queensland and New Guinea.

Which is why it is so important for us to understand these birds’ requirements and to protect and enhance the remaining areas of habitat that they still utilize.

December 2021


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