Bird Families

Lovecraft's deceptively creepy nightjar

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In the famous story by Howard Lovecraft "The Dunwich Horror" (or "Dunwich Nightmare" in another translation), nightjars are described as scary birds with eerie voices that gather near the dying man's house and patiently wait for his last minutes to steal his soul and drag him to hell. At the same time, the air is filled with their disgusting cackle.

The first time I read this story was when I was a teenager, when I did not have the Internet and an ornithological encyclopedia, and there were no nightjars around, so this bird seemed to me to be something really creepy. With bulging sparkling eyes like an owl, clawed paws and a voice like a black-throated loon (google, who is interested - the love cries of a black-throated loon are worthy of a horror movie) - such a frightening and dangerous bird is described by a nightjar in the text.

The reality, however, is full of disappointments. The Common Nightjar - the most common type of Nightjar - turned out to be a small harmless bird, more like a lump of last year's leaves in appearance, making rattling sounds or quite nice chirping.

In the picture for this article, the nightjar looks more cute than scary. And all the more, in my opinion, Lovecraft's writing skills, if he was able to turn a brown ball of feathers that spends the day clinging to a branch or hunting flies into a creepy otherworldly predator, flying to his deathbed in anticipation of his devilish feast.

I could not find information about whether this is an invention of the writer or an echo of some legend, however, a nightjar and in popular beliefs was considered a bad thieving bird, which is only looking for an opportunity to get close to the cattle and suck milk from the udder. For this desire (which has nothing to do with reality - nightjars gather next to livestock for the sake of flies, which are attracted by the smell of manure) the bird got its name.

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