Sometimes campers in Queensland or the Top End region of the Northern Territory are puzzled when they hear the distinctive sound of someone chopping wood or hammering late at night. The source of the noise is seldom a nocturnal tradesman, but rather the call of the Large-tailed Nightjar. For this reason, the species rejoices in the alternative names of Axe-bird, Carpenter-bird, Hammer-bird, Joiner-bird, Mallet-bird and Woodcutter. Even the local Aborigines were in on the act: they called it Tok Tok.
This enigmatic species is heard more often than it is seen, as it usually spends each day roosting among the leaf litter on the floor of the forest, where its richly mottled plumage blends in perfectly with its dappled surroundings. This species is difficult to flush when roosting, and only flies off suddenly from almost underfoot to avoid being trodden on. It rises abruptly on fluttering wings, then glides and flutters just above the ground before suddenly dropping back to earth, where it once more melts into the background of fallen leaves, sticks and bark. Sometimes, if followed, a Nightjar may circle back to land at the same place from which it was flushed initially.
Motorists driving along quiet country roads may notice the species by its brilliant red eye-shine illuminated in the headlights as the bird sits in the middle of the road.
The accompanying map shows that the Large-tailed Nightjar forms part of the joys of camping in Australia's warmer climes.
If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just take a little time to explore the Birdata website, or visit the BirdLife Australia website at www.birdlife.org.au . You never know what you might find.