About the Nightjar Survey Network


A network of observers gathering critical data
on the status of Nightjars

Nightjars, or goatsuckers, are the most enigmatic group of birds in North America. Very little is known about the basic aspects of their biology, habitat use, and population status due to their cryptically nocturnal lifestyle.

In recent years, conservationists and the general public have come to share a general sense that populations of Nightjars are dramatically declining. However, there were no standardized data available to help describe these changes or to help with reversing population losses. This survey program was created to gain a better understanding on population status by implementing a standardized approach across the nation that will help determine the magnitude and scale of population changes so a course for conservation may be plotted. The Nightjar Survey Network relies entirely on volunteer participation. The program is coordinated by The Center for Conservation Biology at a national level with the help of partner organizations at state and local levels.

Nocturnal behaviors of Nightjars are influenced strongly by moonlight. Activities such as calling and foraging increase under bright moonlight conditions and it is thought that breeding may actually be timed with the lunar schedule. We have designed protocols to take advantage of these behaviors by conducting surveys only during bright moonlit nights so detection rates will be higher and more consistent.

Nightjar surveys are only conducted ONE TIME PER YEAR, are easy to perform, and will not take more than two hours to complete. Volunteers conduct roadside counts at night, on scheduled bright moonlit nights, by driving and stopping at 10 points along a predetermined 9-mile route. At each point, the observer counts all Nightjars seen or heard during a 6-minute period. No artificial broadcast of the species call is used. When surveying a route, you are gathering information on changes in Nightjar populations over time while simultaneously increasing the knowledge on numerical changes in population to the composition of habitats in the landscape.

We welcome you to register for a survey route; your participation is key to the success of the program.

About the Application

The Nightjar Survey Network is made possible by the great open source projects Ruby on Rails and WordPress, and hosted by Heroku and William & Mary. Map visualizations are made possible by Google Maps and Google Fusion Tables. The Nightjar Survey Network was designed by Howell Creative Group. Application development was provided by Solertium.

Data Use Agreement and Terms of Use

Volunteers collect and contribute data to the Nightjar Survey Network Program. We ask that publications derived from this data or website be cleared with CCB before publication. Read the detailed agreement.