Can you spot the bird? "You're crazy!" I hear you shout, "there's no bird in there!" But when you take a second glance and study the left hand side of the photo more closely, you can just make out the beak, eye and body feathers of what is indeed one of the most camouflaged birds in the world.
This is a Large-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus), one of the four Singaporean members of a group of nocturnal, silent flyers which seem to have such a unique aura about them. I found this female, who was quietly incubating her eggs, quite by chance while searching for Sea Eagle nests recently. The species makes no nest but lays the 2 eggs among leaf litter on the rainforest floor, relying totally on its bark-like feathers to (hopefully) avoid being eaten.
As I crept closer to take another picture the bird suddenly flushed, zipping over my head with silent wing-beats and disappearing out of sight. This made me feel a little guilty but it did provide an opportunity to photograph the clutch, which is much more obvious than the sitting bird.
|Nightjars lay their eggs on bare ground.|
The next day I was relieved to find the nightjar had returned to her eggs, and this time I had my long lens with me to take close photos from a distance, without causing her another disturbance. One I'm especially keen to share is this one (right), which shows the fine bristly feathers above the bird's gape (mouth). Such features are probably very useful for increasing the size of the bird's mouth when it opens at night to catch flying insects, demonstrating another marvellous adaptation by a creature to its environment.
In Australia we have three true nightjars and the Owlet-nightjar, and you can see a couple of my previous posts about two of these species here.