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Roraiman Nightjar Setopagis whitelyi

Mari West and Thomas S. Schulenberg
Version: 1.0 — Published July 11, 2014


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Distinguishing Characteristics

Nightjars are nocturnal birds with plumage that is cryptically patterned, and that is dominated by shades of brown. They have long wings, short tarsi, very wide but short bills, and prominent rictal bristles. Roraiman Nightjar is a small species of nightjar, with very dark plumage and a relatively short tail. This species lacks a narrow rufous collar across the nape, which is present on many other nightjars. The male has a white band on the outer primaries, and distinct white spots on the wing coverts. The tail is mostly dark, but there are large white spots at the tips of the inner webs of the outer rectrices. The female is similar to the male, but lacks the white band on the wings; the spots on the wing coverts are reduced (or even lacking), and when present are rufous, not white; and the white spots in the tail are smaller.

Similar Species

Roraiman Nightjar overlaps geographically with two similar species, Blackish Nightjar (Nyctipolus nigrescens) and Band-winged Nightjar (Systellura longirostris). Blackish Nightjar primarily occurs at lower elevations than Roraiman, however, with no known elevational overlap between the two species. Blackish Nightjar is slightly smaller and, despite the name, less blackish than Roraiman. Male Roraiman has white spots on the wing coverts and a distinct white band on the outer primaries; male Blackish darker wing coverts and only a very small white wing band. Females of the two species are more similar, but female Roraiman has buffier underparts and may show rufous spots on the wing coverts.

Roraiman Nightjar also is very similar to Band-winged Nightjar (Systellura longirostris), which occurs at similar elevations. Among other differences, Band-winged Nightjar is slightly larger than Roraiman, with a longer tail; both sexes of Band-winged have a narrow rufous collar across the nape; and the breast is spotted with buffy white (the breast of Roraiman is barred, not spotted).

Detailed Description

The following description is based on Cleere (1998):

Adult male: Forecrown, crown, nape, back, rump, and uppertail coverts blackish brown, spotted with cinnamon, and intermixed with some grayish white. Scapulars blackish brown spotted with tawny, the spots sometimes with dark centers, and occasionally edged buff around the tips. Rectrices dark brown, the three outermost pairs faintly and broadly barred with very pale buff. The inner webs of rectrices 3 and 4 have a large (ca 20 mm) white spot at the tip. Wing coverts blackish brown spotted with cinnamon, tawny, and buff; the outer webs of some coverts, especially the innermost greater and inner median coverts, have a large white spot at the tips. Primaries dark brown; thin (ca 5 mm wide) white bar across both webs of the three outermost primaries, at about the midpoint of the feathers; inner webs of inner primaries and of all secondaries barred with buff. Tertials brown with grayish white flecking and large white spot on tip of outer webs. Lores and auriculars blackish brown, spotted and barred with cinnamon and buff. Chin and upper throat dark brown. Lower throat white. Breast dark brown barred with pale buff. Belly and flanks pale buff or buffish white, barred with brown. Undertail coverts buff, usually unmarked, but occasionally broadly barred with brown.

Adult female: Generally similar to adult male, but often browner (less blackish); wing bar greatly reduced or lacking, and tawny, not white; spots on tertials and wing coverts smaller and buffish, not white; and the white spots at the tips of the rectrices are smaller (ca 8 mm).

Juvenile: Undescribed.


There is no information available on molts of Roraiman Nightjar; presumably this species follows the complex basic molt strategy.

Bare Parts

Iris: dark rown

Bill: blackish

Tarsi and toes: dark brown

Bare parts color data from Cleere (1998).


Total length: 21 cm (Cleere 1998), 22.4 cm (Hilty 2003)

Linear measurements (from Cleere 1998):

male (n ?)

wing length (flat): range 156-163 mm

tail length: range 96-108 mm

bill length (from base): range 13.5-15.0 mm

tarsus length: range 14.0-16.2 mm

female (n ?)

wing length (flat): range 155-164 mm

tail length: range 92-108 mm

bill length (from base): range 13.5-16.0 mm

tarsus length: range 12.2-16.0 mm

Mass (from Cleere 1998):

male (n ?): range 30-40 g

female (n ?): range 45-48 g

Recommended Citation

West, M. and T. S. Schulenberg (2014). Roraiman Nightjar (Setopagis whitelyi), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/nb.rornig1.01