Sulawesi eared-nightjar (Eurostopodus diabolicus)

Also known as: Heinrich’s nightjar, satanic eared-nightjar
GenusEurostopodus (1)
SizeLength: 26 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

Until recently, this large, dark nightjar was only known from a single female specimen (2). The plumage on the upperparts is greyish-brown, speckled with brown, buff and pale tawny spots, and offers incredible camouflage in their habitat. The underparts are brown, barred and spotted with cinnamon and pale buff, becoming pale buff, barred brown on the belly and flanks. The crown has broad, blackish streaks, and a white band around the throat of the male distinguishes it from the female, which has a rich buff band (2). The male also has white wing patches that the female lacks (3). When in flight, their rounded wing tips, and short, square tail can be seen (2). An unidentified, two noted plip-plop call, which sounds like dripping water, is frequently heard and thought to be the Sulawesi eared-nightjar. Local people believe this is the sound of the bird taking out a person’s eyes, and may be the reason for the species’ scientific name diabolicus, derived from the Latin word for devil (4).

Endemic to the island of Sulawesi (2).

Occurs in lowland forest, hill forest and montane forest, in clearings and openings, or along tracks, roads and the forest edges. It prefers primary forest, but has also been recorded in lightly logged areas, between elevations of 250 and 1,735 meters (2) (4).

The Sulawesi eared-nightjar is a nocturnal bird that spends its nights hunting along the edges of forests and roads for flying insects (2). When foraging it often glides with the wings held level to the body, occasionally fluttering (2) (4). During the day, the Sulawesi eared-nightjar roosts on the ground, maybe in thickets (2). Nothing is known about breeding in this nightjar; a nest was only found as recently as 2000. It was encountered in mid-May, and consisted of two large, dried leaves drawn together on the ground with a single egg laid on top of them. This was located in an exposed area on a ridge-top, surrounded by dense thickets and slightly disturbed lowland forest (5).

A single female Sulawesi eared-nightjar was captured in 1931, and then the species was not recorded again until an individual was sighted in 1993 (2). Birds were recorded at two sites in May 1996 (2), and a male of the species was seen in the daytime for the first time in 1999 (3). These few sightings illustrate the bird’s rarity, and this small population is thought to be declining due to the loss of forest habitat. Whilst large expanses of undisturbed forest remain on Sulawesi, particularly in montane regions, great areas of lowland forest have been cleared for human settlements, logging and agriculture (6).

The Sulawesi eared-nightjar has been sighted in one protected area, the Lore Lindu National Park, which contains one of the largest intact forests in Indonesia. A study to ascertain the species’ status has been recommended; obtaining recordings of its vocalisations would assist with further searches for the species (5).

For further information on the Sulwesi eared-nightjar see:

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)