Caprimulgiformes is an order of birds that includes a number of
birds with global distribution (except Antarctica). They are generally
insectivorous and nocturnal. The order gets its name from the Latin
for "goat-milker", an old name based on an erroneous view of the
European nightjar's feeding habits.
4 See also
The classification of the various birds that make up the order has
long been controversial and difficult, particularly in the case of the
nightjars. Most taxonomists consider the following families, but some
may be polyphenetic in their own distinct orders:
Podargidae (frogmouths, 15 species in 3 genera)
Nyctibiidae (potoos, about 5 species in 1 genus)
Chordeilinae (New World nighthawks)
Caprimulginae (typical nightjars)
Eurostopodinae (eared nightjars)
Traditionally, they were regarded, on morphological grounds, as being
midway between the owls (Strigiformes) and the swifts. Like the owls,
they are nocturnal hunters with a highly developed sense of sight, and
like the swifts they are excellent flyers with small, weak legs. At
one time or another, they have been allied with owls, swifts,
kingfishers, hoopoes, mousebirds, hornbills, rollers, bee-eaters,
woodpeckers, trogons and hummingbirds.
Based on analysis of
DNA sequence data – notably β-fibrinogen
intron 7 – Fain and Houde considered the families of the
Caprimulgiformes to be members of the proposed clade Metaves, which
also includes the hoatzin, tropicbirds, sandgrouse, pigeons, kagu,
sunbittern, mesites, flamingos, grebes and swifts and hummingbirds.
This clade was also found by the expanded study of Ericson et al.
(2006), but support was extremely weak.
While only the latter study recovered monophyly of the Cypselomorphae
(see below) within Metaves, the former was based on only a single
locus and could not resolve their relationships according to standard
criteria of statistical confidence. No morphological synapomorphies
have been found that uniquely unite
that matter), but numerous unlinked nuclear genes independently
support their monophyly either in majority or whole. Ericson et al.
(2006) concluded that if valid, the "Metaves" must originate quite
some time before the Paleogene, and they reconciled this with the
While the relationships of cypselomorphs are a subject of ongoing
debate, the phylogeny of the individual lineages is better resolved.
Much of the remaining uncertainty regards minor details.
Initial mtDNA cytochrome b sequence analysis agreed with earlier
morphological and DNA-DNA hybridization studies insofar as that
the oilbird and the frogmouths seemed rather distinct. The other
lineages appeared to form a clade, but this is now known to have been
caused by methodological limitiations.
Aegothelidae (owlet-nightjars) with about a dozen living species
in one genus are apparently closer to the Apodiformes; these and the
Caprimulgiformes are closely related, being grouped together as
Cypselomorphae. The oilbird and the frogmouths seem quite distinct
among the remaining Caprimulgiformes, but their exact placement cannot
be resolved based on osteological data alone.
Even the study of Ericson et al. could not properly resolve the
oilbird's and frogmouths' relationships beyond the fact that they are
quite certainly well distinct. It robustly supported, however, the
idea that the owlet-nightjars should be considered closer to
Caprimulgiformes, unlike the methodologically weaker studies of
Mariaux & Braun (1996) and Fain and Houde (2004).
Alternatively, Mayr's phylogenetic taxon
Cypselomorphae might be
placed at order rank and substitute the two present orders
Caprimulgiformes and Apodiformes. Such a group would be fairly
uninformative as regards its evolutionary history, as it has to
include some very plesiomorphic and some extremely derived lineages
(such as hummingbirds) to achieve monophyly.
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Paraprefica kelleri fossil
The fossil record of caprimulgiform birds (in the loose sense) is
rather scant. Nonetheless, it supports the emerging consensus
phylogeny well. The genus Paraprefica, probably from the Early Eocene
(though this is somewhat uncertain), seems to be a basal form that at
times has been allied with the oilbird and the potoos, but cannot be
assigned to either with certainty. In the consensus scenario, it would
represent a record of the initial divergence of the three lineages.
This nicely agrees with fossils suggesting that the basal divergence
of the owlet-nightjar and apodiform branch also occurred during that
time. In addition, Eocypselus, a
Late Paleocene or
Early Eocene genus
of north-central Europe, cannot be assigned to any one cypselomorph
lineage with certainty but appears to be some ancestral form.
Paleogene birds strongly suggest that the two main extant
lineages of cypselomorphs separated about 60-55 mya
(Selandian-Thanetian), and that some time around the
Bartonian boundary, some 40 mya, the common ancestors of
Caprimulgidae and eared nightjars diverged from those of
oilbird and frogmouths.
Caprimulgiform birds typically lay small clutches: frogmouths and
potoos lay only one egg, with exceptions such as the Australian Tawny
Frogmouth which lay two to three and Marbled
Frogmouth which lay one
to two; nightjars one or two, and the
Oilbird usually three. With the
exception of the Oilbird, which nests colonially in tree hollows,
caprimulgiform birds do not build a nest but lay their egg or eggs
directly onto the ground or branches. Both parents usually incubate,
and for camouflage the semialtricial chicks, covered with down at
hatching but immobile, are often coloured white like the eggs.
Little is known of the life history of many members of the order
especially of maximum lifespans and age at first breeding. Most
caprimulgiforms are monogamous, with the same pair breeding for many
years, though only the eared nightjars typically produce more than a
single brood per year.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Caprimulgiformes.
Caprimulgiformes by population
^ a b Fain, Matthew G.; Houde, Peter (2004). "Parallel radiations in
the primary clades of birds" (PDF). Evolution. 58 (11): 2558–2573.
doi:10.1554/04-235. PMID 15612298. Archived from the original
(PDF) on 2013-04-07.
^ a b Ericson, Per G.P.; Anderson, Cajsa L.; Britton, Tom;
Elżanowski, Andrzej; Johansson, Ulf S.; Källersjö, Mari; Ohlson,
Jan I.; Parsons, Thomas J.; Zuccon, Dario; Mayr, Gerald (2006).
"Diversification of Neoaves: integration of molecular sequence data
and fossils" (PDF). Biology Letters. 2 (4): 543–547.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2006.0523. PMC 1834003 . PMID 17148284.
Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-03-07.
^ a b Mariaux, Jean; Braun, Michael J. (1996). "A Molecular
Phylogenetic Survey of the Nightjars and Allies (Caprimulgiformes)
Special Emphasis on the Potoos (Nyctibiidae)". Molecular
Phylogenetics and Evolution. 6 (2): 228–244.
doi:10.1006/mpev.1996.0073. PMID 8899725.
^ Cracraft, Joel (1981). "Toward a phylogenetic classification of the
recent birds of the world (Class Aves)" (PDF). Auk. 98 (4): 681–714.
^ Sibley, Charles Gald and Ahlquist, Jon Edward (1990): ThePhylogeny
and classification of birds. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn.,
^ a b Mayr, Gerald (2002). "Osteological evidence for paraphyly of the
Caprimulgiformes (nightjars and allies)". Journal für
Ornithologie. 143 (1): 82–97. doi:10.1007/bf02465461.
^ Cleere, Nigel (2010) Nightjars of the world : potoos,
frogmouths, oilbird and owlet-nightjars, Princeton University Press,
Birds (class: Aves)
Origin of birds
Origin of flight
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Recently extinct birds
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Casuariiformes (emus and cassowaries)
Phasianinae (pheasants and relatives)
Columbiformes (doves and pigeons)
Caprimulgiformes (nightjars and relatives)
Apodiformes (swifts and hummingbirds)
Charadriiformes (gulls and relatives)
Gruiformes (cranes and relatives)
Eurypygiformes (kagu and sunbittern)
Gaviiformes (loons or divers)
Procellariiformes (albatrosses and petrels)
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Pelecaniformes (pelicans and relatives)
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