Great Eared Nightjar: The Emissary of the Night

The nocturnal landscape of the Indian subcontinent is a symphony of sights and sounds. As twilight descends, a myriad of nocturnal species awaken and lend a unique, mysterious charm to the environment. Among the avian species that rule the Indian night sky, the Great Eared Nightjar (Lyncornis macrotis) stands out due to its distinctive features, intriguing behaviours, and haunting call. This large nightjar is an impressive specimen in the family Caprimulgidae and is known for its long ear tufts and barred pattern. It represents an important part of the region’s rich biodiversity.

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameGreat Eared Nightjar
2Scientific nameLyncornis macrotis
3ColourBarred pattern
4Average length31 to 41 cm
5Average heightMedium-sized bird
6Type of birdForest bird
7Found in India in statesSouthwestern India, northeastern India
8HabitatSubtropical or moist lowland tropical forests
9IUCN StatusNot Classified

Features of the Great Eared Nightjar


The Great Eared Nightjar is known for its imposing size, which sets it apart from other species in its family. These birds range from 31 to 41 cm in length, making them the largest species in terms of length within the Caprimulgidae family. This size not only adds to their striking appearance but also aids them in their nocturnal hunting activities, enabling them to cover larger distances and hunt efficiently.


As a medium-sized bird, the Great Eared Nightjar possesses a height commensurate with its length. While specific data on its height is limited, its relative size compared to other members of the Caprimulgidae family is noteworthy. Although not as tall as some birds, their size is advantageous for their lifestyle. The height and length of this bird facilitate its unique lifestyle in the subtropical and tropical forests of the Indian subcontinent.

Running Speed

While there are no specific records on the running speed of the Great Eared Nightjar, it is known that nightjars, in general, are not built for speed on the ground. Their real strength lies in their flight. Being nocturnal birds, nightjars have evolved to fly silently while hunting for prey or evading predators, making them adept at maneuvering through their forest habitats. They use their long wings for sustained flight, often hovering in place to catch insects in mid-air.

Other Features

One of the most distinctive features of the Great Eared Nightjar is the long ear-tufts, which are often recumbent. These birds have a white throat band but lack white on their wings or tail. Males weigh an average of 131 g, while females weigh an average of 151 g. Their barred wings and tail add to their unique appearance, helping them blend in with their surroundings while roosting during the day.

Habitat and Food of the Great Eared Nightjar

  1. Geographical Spread : The Great Eared Nightjar is found in South Asia and Southeast Asia, with prominent populations in southwestern and northeastern India.This can be found in countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
  1. Habitat Preference : This bird species prefers subtropical or moist lowland tropical forests as its natural habitat. Its affinity for forest environments enables it to find ample food and nesting sites.
  1. Diet : Like most nightjars, the Great Eared Nightjar is insectivorous, feeding mainly on flying insects. Their diet includes moths, beetles, and other insects that they catch mid-flight.
  1. Foraging Behaviour : These birds are active at dusk and at night, leveraging their excellent night vision and silent flight to catch unsuspecting prey. They usually forage alone or in pairs.
  1. Seasonal Changes : While no specific migratory patterns are documented, their activity levels may vary with the seasons, influenced by insect availability and breeding seasons.

Nesting and Nurturing

Details about the nesting and nurturing behaviour of the Great Eared Nightjar are somewhat scarce, likely due to the bird’s nocturnal habits and their preference for inaccessible forest habitats. However, it’s known that like other nightjars, the Great Eared Nightjar probably nests on the ground, laying eggs directly on leaf litter. The parents are likely to share incubation duties.

Great Eared Nightjars’ large size means they are more capable of protecting their offspring from predators. The nocturnal nature of these birds also gives their young an added layer of protection. The exact duration of their breeding cycle and other aspects of their nurturing practices warrant further study.


The Great Eared Nightjar, like many forest-dwelling species, faces the existential threat of habitat loss. With increasing human intrusion and destruction of their forest habitats, these nightjars are losing their homes at an alarming rate.

Light pollution is another significant issue for this nocturnal species. Excessive artificial lighting can interfere with their hunting and breeding activities, leading to a decrease in their population numbers.

Moreover, although they are not primarily targeted by hunters, they may inadvertently get trapped in nets set up for other species or fall victim to predation by invasive species.

IUCN Status and Conservation

As of now, the IUCN has not specifically classified the Great Eared Nightjar. However, with the growing anthropogenic pressures on their habitats and the threats they face, there may be a need for conservation strategies tailored for this species. These could include habitat protection and restoration, control of invasive species, and implementing measures to reduce light pollution.

Public awareness and education about these unique birds are also vital for their conservation. Encouraging responsible tourism and advocating for bird-friendly practices can help ensure that the Great Eared Nightjar continues to reign over the nocturnal realm of the Indian subcontinent.

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