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Version 1.0

This is a historic version of this account.  Current version


Band-winged Nightjar Systellura longirostris

Sarah Crestol
Version: 1.0 — Published March 13, 2015


Geographic Variation

Currently nine subspecies of Band-winged Nightjar are recognized (Dickinson and Remsen 2013). These represent at least three distinct vocal groups, and four-five genetic groups, strongly indicating that the current highly poltytypic Band-winged Nighjar represents anywhere from two to five distinct biological species (see also Systematics).

roraimae; described as Systellura ruficervix roraimae Chapman 1929; type locality Philipp Camp, 6000 feet [1828 m], Mt. Roraima, Venezuela

Restricted to the tepuis of southern Venezuela, and immediately adjacent Guyana (Braun et al. 2007); probably also occurs in adjacent northern Brazil.

Large and dark, with reduced white markings on the upperparts and breast. The white band across the primaries in the male is relatively narrow, and the white spot on the outermost rectrix of the male is reduced and confined to the inner web. The wings of the female often have little or no buff on the outer primaries and on the outer rectrices (Cleere 1998). Also has different vocalizations, and probably represents a separate biological species.

longirostris, described as Caprimulgus longirostris Bonaparte 1825; type locality South America

Occurs from northeastern Argentina and Uruguay north to eastern Brazil. Southern populations possibly migratory (Storer 1989, Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990, Cleere 1998).

See Detailed Description.

pedrolimai, described as Caprimulgus longirostris pedrolimai Grantsau 2008; type locality Fazenda Serra Branca, Município Jeremoabo, Bahia, Brazil

Occurs in northeastern Brazil (Bahia).

Much smaller than longirostris, and the plumage overall is much more reddish (Grantsau 2008).

ruficervix, described as Stenopsis ruficervix Sclater 1866; type locality Bogotá, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador

Occurs in the Andes from western Venezuela south through Colombia and Ecuador to northernmost Peru (northern Cajamarca).

Darker and more heavily spotted than longirostris. Males have a narrower white band across the primaries (ca 5-10 mm wide) and smaller white spots on the outer rectrices (ca 30-40 mm). Some birds are more heavily spotted and ocellated tawny on the upperparts and wing coverts, giving them a rufous appearance (Cleere 1998). Genetically, is sister to roraimae (see Systematics); consequently, if roraimae is recognized as a separate species (on the basis of its different vocalizations), then ruficervix also should be elevated to species rank.

atripunctata, described as Systellura ruficervix atripunctata Chapman 1923; type locality Acobamba, 10,000 feet [= 3048 m], Junín, Peru

Occurs in the Andes of Peru (except the far north), Bolivia, and northern Chile.

Paler and grayer than ruficervix, and is more heavily ocellated with buff on the upperparts. The white band across the primaries is wider than in ruficervix (ca 10-15 mm) (Cleere 1998).

bifasciata, described as Caprimulgus bifasciatus Gould 1837; type locality not stated, but the type specimen is from Valparaiso, Chile

Occurs in Chile, from southern Antofagasta south at least to Aisén, and in western Argentina from Salta south to western Santa Cruz (Cleere 1998, Jaramillo 2003). Resident in most of its range, at least in Chile, but southern populations (north at least to Aisén), are migratory, moving north to northern Argentina and perhaps to Paraguay.

Paler than nominate longirostris, and larger than decussata. The white wing band of the male is relatively broad (ca 15 mm), and the white tail spots are large (ca 40-50 mm). Presumably intergrades with patagonica in the southeastern portion of its range (Cleere 1998).

mochaensis, described as Caprimulgus longirostris mochaensis Cleere 2006; type locality Isla Mocha, Chile

Known from Isla Mocha, Arauco, Chile, and Isla Ascención, Chiloé, Chile.

Larger and darker than bifasciata, "with a darker, more tawny-buff collar on the hindneck, broader, heavier crown streaking, and less buff on the belly and flanks" (Cleere 2008).

patagonica, described as Caprimulgus longirostris patagonicus Olrog 1962

Occurs in central and southern Argentina (Santa Fe and Córdoba south to Santa Cruz). The southern populations are migratory, moving north to northeastern Argentina (Formosa to Buenos Aires) (Cleere 1998).

A large bodied, small billed subspecies; similar to bifasciata but darker, the plumage dominated by black markings on a clear gray background (Cleere 1998). Holyoak (2001) suggests that the validity of this subspecies merits further investigation.

decussata; described as Caprimulgus decussatus Tschudi 1844; type locality Peru

Occurs on the coast of Peru and northern Chile.

The smallest and palest subspecies; the male also has the smallest white spots in the outer rectrices (ca 20-30 mm) (Cleere 1998). Also differs in vocalizations, and is highly divergent genetically from all other subspecies of Band-winged Nightjar (see Systematics).



Systellura longirostris roraimae


Systellura longirostris ruficervix


Systellura longirostris atripunctata


Systellura longirostris bifasciata/patagonica


Systellura longirostris longirostris


Systellura longirostris mochaensis

Related Species

Until recently, longirostris was classified in the genus Caprimulgus, a genus that eventually encompassed a large number of species of nightjars worldwide (e.g., Peters 1940, Dickinson 2003). Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, reveals that the broadly defined Caprimulgus of Peters (1940) and other authors is highly polyphyletic (Han et al. 2010, Sigurdsson and Cracraft 2014). Caprimulgus proper is entirely confined to the Old World, and New World species of "Caprimulgus" are split into several clades.

Phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, indicates that "Caprimuglus" longirostris is paraphyletic. Sigurdsson and Cracraft (2014) conducted a phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequence data, from both mitochondrial and nuclear genes, that included samples identified as representing seven of the nine recognized subspecies of longirostris (missing were mochaensis and pedrolimai). The population of the coast of Peru and Chile, decussata, is very divergent from all other longirostris; it is basal to a clade that includes the genera Setopagis, Hydropsalis, Macropsalis, Eleothreptus, and all other subspecies of longirostris. The remaining subspecies of longirostris formed a monophyletic group, which is sister to the genus Eleothreptus (see also Han et al. 2010); consequently longirostris now usually is classified in the monotypic genus Systellura (e.g. Dickinson and Remsen 2013). The core longirostris group resolves into three separate clades, which Sigurdsson and Cracraft (2014) suggest should be recognized as three species: a longirostris group (including longirostris, atripunctata, bifasciata, and patagonica); ruficervix; and roraimae. Within this clade, ruficervix and roraimae are sister to one another.

Recommended Citation

Crestol, S. (2015). Band-winged Nightjar (Systellura longirostris), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.bawnig1.01