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Now you see it, now you don’t. Masters of disguise, the fiery-necked nightjar is often spotted as two glowing eyes in the middle of the road at night. And then, wham! They fly up just before the vehicle reaches them.

Chances are you’ll never see this nocturnal bird during the day. It’s so darn well camouflaged. At night and early morning as it’s busily catching insects, you’ll hear its distinctive repetitive call, ‘Dear Lord deliver us’.

Their old English name, rather unattractively, is ‘Goat Sucker’ – presumably because people thought that they sucked their goats’ milk at night.

Caprimulgus pectoralis is also known as naguil in Afrikaans. These appealing rufous-coloured birds stand 40 cm high and weigh 20–188 gm. They have little legs, a short neck, but large eyes and head. Plumage in beautiful bars and streaks of chestnut brown and grey is what gives them the camo advantage. And it’s their large bill and huge gape that allow them to swallow whole insects both on the wing and on the ground.

Solitary and monogamous, the fiery-necked nightjar is found exclusively in southern Africa in savannah, woodland, forest and plantations. They prefer good ol’ RSA for breeding and do so from August to December. Eggs are laid on the ground in nests protected by mud and grasses, with gestation a mere two weeks.

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