Flight and habits of the Nightjar or Night Hawk

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The general habits of the Nightjar are quite as remarkable as its song. It feeds on the wing, chasing and capturing the various moths, beetles, and other insects that :fly abroad by night. It may be seen wheeling round the branches of some tree, the oak being a special favourite, sometimes circling round it, and sometimes rising high in the air, and the next moment skimming along the ground. Suddenly it will disappear, and next moment its long trilling cry is heard from among the branches of the tree round which it has been flying.
To see it while singing is almost impossible, for it has a habit of sitting longitudinally on the branch, and not across it, like most birds, so that the outline of its body cannot be distinguished from that of the bough on which it is seated. As suddenly as it began, the sound ceases, and simultaneously the bird may be seen wheeling again through the air with its noiseless :flight.

Being a very bold bird, and not much afraid of man, it allows a careful observer to watch its movements clearly. The naturalist writer, Reverend JG Wood wrote: "I have often stood close to the tree round which several Nightjars were circling, and seen them chase their prey to the ground within a yard or two of the spot on which I was standing". The flight of the Nightjar is singularly graceful. Swift as the swallow itself, it presents a command of wing that is really wonderful, gliding through the air with consummate ease, wheeling and doubling in pursuit of some active moth, whose white wings glitter against the dark background, while the sober plumage of its pursuer is scarcely visible, passing often within a few feet of the spectator, and yet not a sound or a rustle will reach his ears. Sometimes the bird is said to strike its wings together over its back, so as to produce a sharp snapping sound, which is believed to be intended to express anger at the presence of an intruder.

Owing to the soft plumage with which it is clad, this bird, like the owls, looks larger than really is the case. It is between ten and eleven inches in length, with an expanse of wing of twenty inches, and yet weighs rather less than three ounces. Its large mouth, like that of the swallow tribe, opens as far as the. eyes, and is furnished with a set of vibrissae or bristles, which remind the observer of the 'whale-bone' which is set on the jaw of the Greenland whale.
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