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Aegothelidae - Owlet-nightjars

Owlet-Nightjar
Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus ©Ian Montgomery Website

The Aegothelidae or Owlet-nightjars are small crepuscular birds related to the nightjars and frogmouths; they are an exclusively Australasian group. Most are native to New Guinea, but some species extend to Australia, the Moluccas, and New Caledonia. The monotypic family has one genus Aegotheles.

Owlet-nightjars are insectivores that hunt mostly in the air but sometimes on the ground; their soft plumage is a cryptic mixture of browns and paler shades, they have fairly small, weak feet (but larger and stronger than those of frogmouths or nightjars) and a tiny bill that opens extraordinarily wide, surrounded by prominent whiskers. Their wings are short, with 10 primaries and about 11 secondaries; their tails are long and rounded.

The relationship between the owlet-nightjars and the (traditional) Caprimulgiformes has long been controversial and obscure and remains so today: in the 19th century they were regarded as a subfamily of the frogmouths, and they are still generally considered to be related to the frogmouths and/or the nightjars. It appears though that that they are not so closely related to either as previously thought, and that the owlet-nightjars share a more recent common ancestor with the Apodiformes. It has been suggested that they should be considered a distinct order, Aegotheliformes. This, the caprimulgiform lineage(s), and the Apodiformes, are postulated to form a clade called Cypselomorphae, with the owlet-nightjars and the Apodiformes forming the clade Daedalornithes.

However, a comprehensive 2003 study incorporating DNA sequencing suggests that there are 10 species of owlet-nightjar; they are:

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis
Starry (Spangled) Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles tatei
Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar (Long-whiskered) Aegotheles crinifrons
Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii
Archbold's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles archboldi
Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi
New Caledonian (Enigmatic) Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles savesi
Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii
Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis
Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

Family Links

Owlet Nightjars Aegothelidae

Family Account

Family account

Owlet Nightjars Aegothelidae

IBC Family Account

IBC family account...

Owlet Nightjars Aegothelidae

HBW Family Account

HBW family account...

Owlet Nightjars Aegothelidae

Family Account

The Owlet-Nightjars are a small group of nocturnal birds found only in Australasia, and all are in the same genus (Aegotheles). One species is fairly widespread in open country of Australia and southern New Guinea, the Australian Owlet-Nightjar...

Species Links

Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles crinifrons

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

Species Account

Includes illustration...

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

Species Account

With illustration...

Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi

IUCN Species Status

IUCN species profile...

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

IBC Species Account

IBC species account with video, map etc...

Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles crinifrons

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles crinifrons

IBC Species Account

IBC species account...

Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles crinifrons

Webpage

HBW species account...

Moluccan Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles crinifrons

Species Account

The Moluccan owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles crinifrons), also known as the long-whiskered owlet-nightjar, is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It is endemic to Indonesia.

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

IBC Species Account

IBC species account...

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Starry Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles tatei

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Starry Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles tatei

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Starry Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles tatei

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

IBC Species Account

IBC species account...

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

IUCN Species Status

IUCN species profile...

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

IBC Species Account

IBC species account with taxonomy...

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

Species Account

The Wallace's owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles wallacii) is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii

IBC Species Account

IBC species account with taxonomy...

Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

BirdLife Species Account

BirdLife species profile...

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

IBC Species Account

IBC species account with taxonomy...

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

Species Account

The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is a nocturnal bird found in open woodland across Australia and in southern New Guinea.

Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis

HBW Species Account

HBW species account...

Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

New Caledonian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles savesi

IUCN Species Status

IUCN species profile...

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

Species Account

Birds in Backyards species account...

Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi

Species Account

The Archbold's owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles archboldi) is a species of bird in the Aegothelidae family. It is found mainly in West Papua. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. It is named after American explorer Richard Archbold.

Archbold's Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles archboldi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Barred Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles bennettii

Species Account

The barred owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles bennettii) is a species of bird in the Aegothelidae family. It is found in New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It has a spotted belly.

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

Species Account

The feline owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles insignis) is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Feline Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles insignis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

Species Account

The mountain owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles albertisi) is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It is found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist montane forests.

Mountain Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles albertisi

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Starry Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles tatei

Species Account

The starry owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles tatei), also known as the spangled owlet-nightjar, is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It is endemic to Papua New Guinea. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests It is threatened by habitat loss.

Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis

BirdLife Species Account

Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis

Species Account

The Vogelkop owlet-nightjar or allied owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles affinis) is a species of bird in the family Aegothelidae. It can be found in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. It is known from Bird's Head Peninsula and Eastern Highlands Province.

Vogelkop Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles affinis

IUCN Species Status

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

IUCN Species Status

Wallace's Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles wallacii

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 10

Useful Reading

Nightjars

A Guide to the Nightjars and Related Nightbirds by Nigel Cleere and Dave Nurney Pica Press 1998

ISBN: 1873403488

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Other Links

New Zealand Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles novazelandiae

Wiki

The New Zealand owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles novazelandiae) was a large species of owlet-nightjar (family Aegothelidae) formerly endemic to the islands of New Zealand. Fossil remains (which are common in the pellets of the extinct laughing owl) indicate the species was once widespread across both the North Island and the South Island. Despite a small number of reports of small owls being found in the 19th century that may have been New Zealand owlet-nightjars, the species is thought to have become extinct around 1200 AD.

Phylogeny of the owlet-nightjars

Article

The avian family Aegothelidae (Owlet-nightjars) comprises nine extant species and one extinct species, all of which are currently classified in a single genus, Aegotheles. Owlet-nightjars are secretive nocturnal birds of the South Pacific. They are relatively poorly studied and some species are known from only a few specimens...

Breeding Biology of Australian Owlet-nightjars

Article

Although the Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus is probably the most abundant and one of the most widespread nocturnal birds in Australia, the majority of information published about its ecology, behaviour and especially reproductive biology is anecdotal. Based on six observed nesting attempts, we report data on breeding season, clutch size, incubation and brooding behaviour, nestling growth rates, fledging success, fledgling behaviour and roost site use for a population breeding near Armidale, New South Wales, during 1996–97....

Photographers & Artists

Australian Owlet-Nightjar Aegotheles cristatus

Video