COMMON NIGHTHAWK

COMMON NIGHTHAWK(Chordeiles minor) (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Common Nighthawk  is mainly brown with white spots all over its plumage. In flight its wings have a boomerang shape, and the white spot near their middle is visible. It has a very small bill but a gaping mouth.  It measures around 24 cm (9 inches) long. There are many subspecies.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Chordeiles-minor – the bird emits a nasal ‘peent’ call in flight. When diving to catch insects on the fly, the bird’s wings make a characteristic ‘vrrrr’ sound.
NAME:  The English name ‘Nighthawk’ was given to this bird for its hunting habits at dusk, but it is NOT a ‘Hawk’. The Latin Genus name means loosely ‘moving about in the evening’, and the Latin species naame ‘minor’ means ‘small’. Nighthawks are also called ‘nightjars’ in Europe.
HABITAT: Very diversified – open country like fields, desert scrub, or forests, deserts and urban areas.
DIET: Flying insects, caught in mid-air as the bird dives on them.
NESTING:  In its natural habitat, this bird nests on the ground and does NOT build a nest proper. About six light beige eggs are laid, which are incubated mainly by the female. Both parents feed the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: This is a North American species. Its breeding range covers most of Canada up to the tree line and the continental USA (except Alaska). It migrates to Mexico and South America east of the Andes. Some vagrants have ended up on Hawaii.
CONSERVATION: The species is considered as ‘threatened’ in Canada. One suspected cause is the extensive use of pesticides. Common nighthawks have adapted to cities decades ago by nesting on flat gravel roofs. However this makes their eggs vulnerable to predation, by crows for example. Secondly, modern construction methods no longer use those types of roofs. Here’s an article about sheep working to help preserve this bird’s habitat.
NOTES: The Common nighthawk is part of what is called the ‘goatsucker’ family, in reference to an undeserved reputation dating back some 2,000 years ago about those birds sucking the milk of goats. For centuries now this belief has been known to be false.
The common nighthawk, as its name implies, is active around sunset and sunrise, and also at night, especially on full moons.
This bird is an interesting case of camouflage.  making it difficult to see when immobile. It tends to sit on its short legs parallel to a branch, or on a post or roof.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Eastern Whip-poor-will
REFERENCES: https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/common-nighthawk
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Nighthawk/id
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_nighthawk
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/common-nighthawk

Common nighthawk - BC, Canada - © Gavin Keefe Schaefer
Common nighthawk – BC, Canada – © Gavin Keefe Schaefer
Common Nighthawk in flight - Spring Creek, Nevada - June 2007 - photo by Gary L. Clark
Common Nighthawk in flight – Spring Creek, Nevada – June 2007 – photo by Gary L. Clark

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