Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is the smallest of the nocturnal birds (night birds) found in Australia. Its large brown eyes are non-reflective when exposed to a torch or spotlight (other nocturnal birds give a red reflection). The Owlet-nightjar has two different plumage colourations: russet-brown (rufous), and the more common grey. In both forms the birds are paler below, and are faintly barred with black. There are two wide black stripes that extend over the head from the top of the eyes, and meet on the back of the neck. The rufous form is restricted to the female birds, which, even in the grey form, tend to be more rufous-tinged than the males. Juvenile resembles adult, but has slightly softer and sometimes more finely speckled plumage, shorter tail, somewhat shorter facilial bristles, pattern on crown lacking. Young Owlet-nightjars resemble adults, but have less distinct black markings.

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Distribution

Subspecies and Distribution:


    * cristatus (Shaw et al., 1790) - SE New Guinea between R Oriomo and Tarara (Port Moresby region); Australia. * tasmanicus Mathews, 1918 - Tasmania.


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Physical Description

Size

21-25 cm, 35-65 g

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Diagnostic Description

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is the smallest of the nocturnal birds (night birds) found in Australia. Its large brown eyes are non-reflective when exposed to a torch or spotlight (other nocturnal birds give a red reflection). The Owlet-nightjar has two different plumage colourations: russet-brown (rufous), and the more common grey. In both forms the birds are paler below, and are faintly barred with black. There are two wide black stripes that extend over the head from the top of the eyes, and meet on the back of the neck. The rufous form is restricted to the female birds, which, even in the grey form, tend to be more rufous-tinged than the males. Juvenile resembles adult, but has slightly softer and sometimes more finely speckled plumage, shorter tail, somewhat shorter facilial bristles, pattern on crown lacking. Young Owlet-nightjars resemble adults, but have less distinct black markings.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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The preferred habitat is almost any tree-studded area where there are suitable hollows, although open areas are also visited. During the day it roosts in hollow branches and tree trunks. The birds form permanent bonds, and pairs occupy the same territory throughout the year.

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Trophic Strategy

Feed at night on a variety of insects. Birds will readily take flying prey, or will pounce on prey either on the ground or in trees. Hunting takes place within a territory and normally in pairs. The Owlet-nightjars watch for food while in flight, or by sitting and searching from a suitable perch.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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Reproduction

Raise one brood per season. Both sexes construct the nest, which is a bed of green leaves, placed in a suitable tree hollow or rock crevice. Both birds also incubate the eggs and care for the chicks.Breeding season: July to December Clutch size: 2 to 5 Incubation: 28 days Time in nest: 28 days

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Aegotheles cristatus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGATGATTATTTTCAACTAACCACAAAGACATTGGCACCCTATACCTAATCTTTGGGGCATGAGCTGGCATAGTCGGAACCGCCCTC---AGCCTTCTAATCCGTGCCGAACTTGGTCAACCGGGCACTCTCCTAGGAGAT---GACCAGATCTACAATGTAATTGTCACTGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCAATCATAATTGGGGGCTTTGGAAACTGATTAGTCCCCCTTATA---ATTGGTGCCCCCGACATGGCATTCCCTCGCATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCTCCGTCCTTTTTACTCCTACTAGCCTCCTCTACAGTAGAAGCAGGGGCAGGTACAGGATGAACTGTATATCCTCCCTTGGCTGGAAACCTAGCCCATGCAGGAGCATCAGTAGACCTA---GCCATCTTCTCCCTCCACCTCGCAGGTGTTTCCTCCATTCTAGGGGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACCGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCTGCCCTCTCGCAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTTGTATGATCCGTCCTTATCACCGCCGTCCTTCTATTACTATCATTACCAGTTCTTGCTGCA---GGAATTACCATGCTACTAACCGACCGTAACTTAAATACCACATTCTTCGACCCTGCTGGCGGAGGAGACCCAATCCTATACCAACATCTCTTCTGATTCTTCGGACACCCAGAAGTCTATATCCTCATCCTACCAGGCTTTGGAATCATCTCACATGTAGTCGCCTACTACGCAGGAAAAAAA---GAGCCATTTGGCTACATAGGAATAGTATGAGCTATACTCTCCATCGGATTCCTAGGCTTCATCGTATGAGCTCACCACATATTTACAGTAGGAATAGACGTAGACACCCGAGCTTACTTCACTTCCGCCACTATAATCATCGCCATCCCAACAGGGATTAAAGTATTCAGCTGATTA---GCCACCCTGCACGGAGGA---ACTATCAAATGAGACCCCCCTATACTATGAGCCCTGGGCTTTATCTTCCTTTTTACTATCGGGGGTCTGACAGGAATTGTCTTAGCAAACTCTTCATTAGACATTGCCCTGCACGACACATACTACGTAGTAGCCCACTTCCACTATGTC---CTTTCAATGGGAGCAGTCTTTGCCATCCTAGCGGGCTTCACCCACTGATTTCCTCTATTCACAGGATACACCTTGCACCCAACATGAACCAAGGCCCACTTCGGAGTCATATTTGCAGGTGTAAACTTAACATTCTTCCCACAACATTTCCTAGGCTTAGCTGGCATACCGCGC---CGATACTCAGACTACCCAGACGCATATACT---CTATGAAACACACTATCATCTGTCGGCTCCCTAATTTCACTAACTGCCGTAATCATACTCATATTCATCATCTGAGAGGCCTTCGCATCCAAACGAAAAGTA---CTACAGCCAGAACTAACCGCTACTAAC
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aegotheles cristatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size has not been quantified, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Not Threatened.

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Population

Population
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be widespread in Australia and moderately common over much of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1999).

Population Trend
Stable
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Wikipedia

Australian Owlet-nightjar

The Australian Owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is a nocturnal bird found in open woodland across Australia and in southern New Guinea. It is colloquially known as "Moth Owl". It is the most common of the owlet-nightjars, and the best known of this secretive family. It is the most common nocturnal bird in Australia, and despite suffering from predation and competition by introduced species it is not considered threatened.

Australian Owlet-nightjar

Description and habitats[edit]

In South Australia

The Australian Owlet-nightjar is a small to medium sized owlet-nightjar with grey upperparts and a white, barred front and a distinct dark and pale patterning on the head. In the north of Australia females can also have a rufous morph. The plumage is overall paler in desert populations. It is adapted to live in open woodland, with more pointed wings and larger feet, unlike most of the rest of the family that live in dense forest (though some can and do live in such habitat in Queensland and New Guinea) . It lives in a variety of habitats as well as open woodland, including mangrove swamps, grasslands, mallee scrub as well as dense forest.

Behaviour[edit]

The Australian Owlet-nightjar feeds at night by diving from perches and snatching insects from the air, ground or off trunks and branches, in the manner of a flycatcher. It may also feed on the wing. It feeds on most insects, particularly beetles, grasshoppers and ants. During the day they roost in hollows in trees, partly for protection from predators and partly to avoid being mobbed by other birds that mistake them for owls.[citation needed]

The Australian Owlet-nightjar nests mainly in holes in trees (or in other holes and crevices), which is provisioned with leaves by both of the pair. It is thought that the frequent addition of eucalyptus leaves is because they act as a beneficial insecticide. Three or four eggs are laid, and incubated by the female for just under a month. Both the adults feed the chicks, which fledge after a month. The young birds are reported to stay close to the parents for several months after they fledge.

References[edit]

  • Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume Five, Barn-owls to Hummingbirds; de Hoyo, Elliot and Sargatal, ISBN 84-87334-20-2
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