Breeding status
First Record
Last Recorded

Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus
Engoulvent (G), Grossegoule (S)


Nightjars are a late migrant, seldom appearing before the end of April or beginning of May. It occurs throughout northern and central Europe, and winters in Africa, as far south as the Cape. Despite being a vagrant now, in Smith's time Nightjars were well known in the islands as evidenced by it having local names on Sark and Guernsey. Smith describes it as a 'regular' autumnal visitant, a few perhaps arriving in the spring and remaining to breed, but by far the greater number only making their appearance on their southward migration in the autumn.' Other people thought it bred at that time - Smith wrote that, Mr Gallienne, in his remarks published in Professor Anstead's list said 'The Nightjar breeds here, and I have obtained it summer and winter'. MacCulloch told Smith that the Goatsucker is looked upon by Guernsey people as a bird of ill-omen and a companion of witches in their aerial rambles. This is perhaps unsurprising given the Nightjars habits and the superstitious nature of people in Guernsey at that time.

There were many records in the islands between 1892 and 1938 (Dobson) but the number of records per annum has declined since. Between 1950 and 1968, Nightjars were recorded in the Transactions in only three years: 2 were seen in the Stream Mill lanes in St Martin on 15 August, 1 was killed by a car at the end of August and another seen at Les Massies, St Saviours on the very late date of 19 December 1961 and 1 was seen on 11 May 1967 perched on a branch in Saint's Valley.

Nightjars have undergone a large-scale decline in most of western Europe (EBCC atlas) and this has presumably been reflected in the lower number of birds passing through the Bailiwick. During the period under review, birds have been recorded in 13 years. Unlike Smith, most records refer to birds seen in spring where records peak in the second week in May. The remainder are scattered throughout the summer and early autumn. The latest record was on 2 October 1981 and earliest 27 April 1978. In spring Nightjars are often first located by their churring. In Alderney, Nightjars possibly bred in 1973. In the Transactions, Bisson wrote 'One flushed from the railway line near Fort Corblets on May 18th. Two seen near Lighthouse on July 3. One heard from July 11th to 13th in Longy Road, being seen against moonlight on 12th. An interesting series of records and the possiblility of breeding cannot be ruled out.'

In Guernsey, Nightjars have tended to occurr in the higher parishes, presumably because there are larger areas of coastal heath in these regions. Between 1969 and 1998, Nightjars have been observed at Pleinmont (5 records), Le Bourg, Icart (2), Jerbourg (2), Cobo, Herm, Neuf Chemin, Saints and Braye Road (GBN).

View database records (12)
Nightjar Neuf Chemin 10/8/1995 1
Nightjar Pleinmont 1/9/1996 1
Nightjar Jerbourg 4/5/1997 7/5/1997 1
Nightjar Saints 9/5/1998 19/5/1998 1
Nightjar Braye Road, VAL 16/5/1998 18/5/1998 1
Nightjar Mount Row, SPP 14/9/2002 1
Nightjar Hougues Peres 12/6/2005 1
Nightjar Creve Coeur [CRV] 18/5/2011 1
Nightjar Rose Farm, Alderney 14/5/2017 1
Nightjar Rose Farm, Alderney 14/5/2017 1
Nightjar Longis Common - ABO Daily Census 27/4/2019 1
Nightjar Bigard [BIG] 31/5/2019 1