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Overview

Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Breeding

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Nesting range extends from southern Yukon, southern Mackenzie, northern Saskatchewan, northern Manitoba, northern Ontario, central Quebec, southern Labrador, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia south virtually throughout North America to California, south-central Nevada, Arizona, southern Texas, Gulf Coast, and southern Florida in the United States; also Middle America from Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico, south through central Guatemala to western Honduras, and along Atlantic slope locally from Tamaulipas through southern Veracruz, and in Belize, eastern Honduras, northern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and possibly in southeastern Colombia in South America (Poulin et al. 1996).

During the northern winter the range includes South America south to northern Argentina (Poulin et al. 1996).

In migration this species occurs throughout Middle America and the West Indies.

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Geographic Range

Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles_minor) breed throughout much of North America and parts of Central America. Their winter distribution is less well known, but they are believed to range throughout middle South America in the lowlands east of the Andes.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Poulin, R., S. Grindal, R. Brigham. 1996. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 213. Philadelphia, PA and Washington DC: The Academy of Natural Scientists and The American Ornithologists Union.
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Geographic Range

Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) breed throughout much of North America and parts of Central America. Their winter distribution is less well known, but they are believed to range throughout middle South America in the lowlands east of the Andes.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Poulin, R., S. Grindal, R. Brigham. 1996. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 213. Philadelphia, PA and Washington DC: The Academy of Natural Scientists and The American Ornithologists Union.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Common nighthawks are medium-sized birds. They are 22 to 24 cm long and weigh 65 to 98 g. Like other members of the Caprimulgidae family, they have very large mouths and eyes. They are cryptically colored in many shades of brown. They have a notched tail and long, slender, pointed wings with white patches on the primary feathers. Males have a white tail band near the tip of the tail and a white throat patch. Females do not have a tail band and are more buff-colored on the throat. Both sexes have bold barring on the chest and belly, though the light parts tend to be whiter on males and more buff-colored on females.

Nine subspecies of common nighthawks have been described. These subspecies are separated by different colors in their plumage. Common nighthawks are often confused with two very similar species of nighthawks: Lesser nighthawks (Chordeiles_acutipennis) and Antillean nighthawks (Chordeiles_gundlachii).

Range mass: 65 to 98 g.

Range length: 22 to 24 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.4421 W.

  • Ehrlich, P. 1988. A Birder’s Handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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Physical Description

Common nighthawks are medium-sized birds. They are 22 to 24 cm long and weigh 65 to 98 g. Like other members of the Caprimulgidae, they have large mouths and eyes, and are cryptically colored. They have a notched tail and long, slender, pointed wings with white patches on the primaries. Males have a white tail band near the tip of the tail and a white throat patch. Females do not have a tail band and are more buff-colored on the throat. Both sexes have bold barring on the chest and belly, though light parts tend to be whiter on males and more buff-colored on females.

Nine subspecies of common nighthawks have been described. These are differentiated by light and dark color variations in the plumage. Common nighthawks are often confused with two very similar species of nighthawks: Lesser nighthawks (Chordeiles acutipennis) and Antillean nighthawks (Chordeiles gundlachii). Lesser nighthawks are slightly smaller than Common Nighthawks, with buffy undertail-coverts instead of white, and with the white wing-patch of the primaries slightly closer to the wing tip. They also forage closer to the ground than do common nighthawks. Antillean nighthawks are virtually indistinguishable from common nighthawks in the field but by call, a nasal killikidick with the same tone as common nighthawks’ peent. In the hand, Antillean nighthawks’ wing measurements are slightly shorter than common nighthawks’.

Range mass: 65 to 98 g.

Range length: 22 to 24 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; polymorphic

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.4421 W.

  • Ehrlich, P. 1988. A Birder’s Handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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Size

Length: 24 cm

Weight: 64 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Habitats include mountains and plains in open and semi-open areas: open coniferous forests, savanna, grasslands, fields, vicinity of cities and towns. Nesting occurs on the ground on a bare site in an open area. In some areas, this species also nests on flat gravel roofs of buildings, perhaps related to prey availability at artificial lights. It prefers areas with sandy soil in the southern United States.

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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Common nighthawks breed in open habitats such coastal dunes and beaches, woodland clearings, grasslands, savannas, sagebrush plains, and open forests. They will also use human habitats, such as logged or burned areas of forests, farm fields, and cities.

Common nighthawks choose nest sites on the ground in open areas with some cover from grasses, shrubs, logs, or boulders. They do not build nests. Instead, they lay their eggs directly on the sand, gravel, leaves or bare rock that cover the ground. Common nighthawks sometimes nest on flat gravel roofs of houses.

Little is known about the migration routes or winter habitat of common nighthawks. They have been seen migrating across wetlands, farmland, river valleys, open woodlands, and coastal dunes. They probably prefer open areas for their wintering grounds.

Range elevation: sea level (low) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

  • Stiles, F., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Common nighthawks breeding habitats include coastal dunes and beaches, woodland clearings, grasslands, savannas, sagebrush plains, and open forests. They will also use habitat altered by human activity including logged or burned areas of forests, farm fields, and cities.

Common nighthawks choose nest sites on the ground in open areas with some cover from grasses, shrubs, logs, or boulders. They do not build nests. Instead, eggs are laid on a variety of substrates including sand, gravel, leaves, and bare rock. In areas of human habitation, common nighthawks often nest on flat, gravel roofs.

Little is known about the migration routes or winter habitat of common nighthawks. They have been seen migrating across wetlands, farmland, river valleys, open woodlands, and coastal dunes. They are presumed to prefer open country in their wintering sites and have been seen flying over cities and towns.

Range elevation: sea level (low) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

  • Stiles, F., A. Skutch. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Costa Rica. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
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Common Nighthawks nest in both rural and urban habitats including coastal sand dunes and beaches, logged forest, recently burned forest, woodland clearings, prairies, plains, sagebrush, grasslands, open forests, and rock outcrops. They also nest on flat gravel rooftops, though less often as gravel roofs are being replaced by smooth, rubberized roofs that provide an unsuitable surface. During migration, Common Nighthawks stop in farmlands, river valleys, marshes, coastal dunes, and open woodlands. Their South American wintering habitat is not well known.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Migrates through Costa Rica September-early November and March-April (Stiles and Skutch 1989). In Colombia, uncommon to fairly common fall migrant late August-late November, uncommon to rare in spring migration March-April (Hilty and Brown 1986).

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds on flying insects (e.g., mosquitoes, moths, beetles, flies, caddisflies). Forages at night or during the day. Catches insects high in the air or close to the ground. May forage on insects around artificial lights. Young are fed insects by regurgitation.

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Food Habits

Common nighthawks are crepuscular. They are most active at dawn and dusk, but occasionally feed during the day in low light conditions, like stormy weather or fog. They use their wide mouths to “hawk” insects in the air. Their large eyes help them find and distinguish among prey items in the dark. They also have a tapetum, a mirror-like structure at the back of each eye that reflects and helps them see in the dark. They fly around, changing directions quickly, and eating up 50 different insect prey species. Most of their prey species are queen ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and true bugs (Homoptera). It also includes moths (Lepidoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), flies (Diptera), wasps (Hymenoptera), crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and other insects. In urban areas, common nighthawks often fly around streetlights or bright yard lights, catching insects that are attracted to the light.

Common Nighthawks drink while in flying by skimming the surface of lakes, streams, or water troughs with their bills.

Animal Foods: insects

  • Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon society encyclopedia of North American birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Brigham, R., R. Barclay. 1995. Prey selection by Common Nighthawks: does vision impose a constraint?. Ecoscience, 2(3): 276-279.
  • Brigham, R. 1990. Prey selection by big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor). American Midland Naturalist, 124: 73-80.
  • Nicol, J., H. Arnott. 1974. Tapeta lucidum in the eyes of goatsuckers (Caprimulgidae). Proceedings of the Royal Academy of London, 187: 349-352.
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Food Habits

Common nighthawks are crepuscular. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and rarely feed at night. They have been reported to occasionally feed during the day in low light conditions (stormy weather or fog, for example) They use their large mouths to “hawk” insects in the air. Their large eyes help them find and distinguish among prey items in the dark. Like owls, common nighthawks have a tapetum (a mirror-like structure at the back of each eye that reflects light to the retina) that increases their ability to see in the dark. They fly with erratic, bat-like movements, taking as many as 50 different insect prey species. Studies indicate that the majority of the diet is made up of queen ants (Hymenoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), and true bugs (Homoptera). It also includes moths (Lepidoptera), mayflies (Ephemeroptera), caddisflies (Trichoptera), flies (Diptera), wasps (Hymenoptera), crickets and grasshoppers (Orthoptera) and other insects. In the urban parts of their range, common nighthawks are often seen flying around streetlights or bright yard lights, catching insects that are attracted to the light.

Common Nighthawks drink while in flight by skimming the surface of lakes, streams, or water troughs with their bills.

Animal Foods: insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

  • Terres, J. 1980. The Audubon society encyclopedia of North American birds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Brigham, R., R. Barclay. 1995. Prey selection by Common Nighthawks: does vision impose a constraint?. Ecoscience, 2(3): 276-279.
  • Brigham, R. 1990. Prey selection by big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor). American Midland Naturalist, 124: 73-80.
  • Nicol, J., H. Arnott. 1974. Tapeta lucidum in the eyes of goatsuckers (Caprimulgidae). Proceedings of the Royal Academy of London, 187: 349-352.
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Food

Common Nighthawks eat flying insects almost exclusively. The Common Nighthawk hunts on the wing at dawn and dusk, opening its tiny beak to reveal a cavernous mouth well suited for snapping up flying insects. It often takes advantage of clouds of insects attracted to streetlamps, stadium lights, and other bright lights. Nighthawks eat queen ants, wasps, beetles, caddisflies, moths, bugs, mayflies, flies, crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects. They may also eat a small amount of vegetation. Though they forage in low light, they seem to locate prey by sight, possibly with the help of a structure in their eyes that reflects light back to the retina to improve their night vision. They occasionally forage during the day in stormy weather, but seem to never forage at night. Common Nighthawks may forage near the ground or water, or more than 500 feet into the sky.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Common nighthawks help to control populations of the insects that they prey on. They also compete with bats and lesser nighthawks Chordeiles_acutipennis for food.

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Predation

Corvus, owls, Falco sparverius, Mephitinae, Serpentes, Felis silvestris and canids such as canis latrans, Vulpes, and Canis familiaris are predators of common nighthawks.

Females and young rely on their cryptic brown coloration to hide them from predators. Males do not guard the nest but will defend it by diving over it and booming with their wings or beating their wings and hissing. Females may pretend to be injured to distract predators and keep them away from the nest. Chicks also defend themselves by spreading their wings and hissing at intruders.

Known Predators:

  • crows and ravens (Corvus)
  • owls (Strigiformes)
  • American kestrels (Falco_sparverius)
  • skunks (Mephitinae)
  • snakes (Serpentes)
  • coyotes (Canis_latrans)
  • foxes (Vulpes)
  • domestic dogs (Canis_lupus_familiaris)
  • domestic cats (Felis_silvestris)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Ecosystem Roles

Common nighthawks help to control populations of the insects that they prey on. They also compete with bats and lesser nighthawks Chordeiles acutipennis for food.

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Predation

Crows and ravens, owls, American kestrels, skunks, snakes, housecats and canids such as coyotes, foxes, and domestic dogs are predators of common nighthawks.

Females and young rely on their cryptic brown coloration to avoid detection of the nest site by predators. Males are not known to guard the nest but will defend it by diving over it and booming with their wings or beating the wings and hissing. Females may feign injury to distract predators from the nest. Chicks also spread their wings and hiss at intruders when threatened.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Chordeiles minor preys on:
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

Comments: This species is represented by a large number of occurrences (subpopulations).

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Global Abundance

>1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but likely exceeds 1,000,000. Rich et al. (2004) estimated population size at 11,000,000.

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General Ecology

Interspecifically territorial toward the Antillean nighthawk in the Florida Keys (Ehrlich et al. 1992).

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Common nighthawks use calls and displays to communicate with one another. The vocalizations of common nighthawks are very simple, and have few variations. They also use non-vocal sounds, such as the booming sound made by the primary feathers of males during a courtship display to communicate. An example of the physical displays used by common nighthawks is the diving display given by males to prospective mates.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

Common nighthawks use calls and displays to communicate with one another. The vocalizations of common nighthawks are very simple, and have few variations. They also use non-vocal sounds, such as the booming sound made by the primary feathers of males during a courtship display to communicate. An example of the physical displays used by common nighthawks is the diving display given by males to prospective mates.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Aerial forager

Common Nighthawks are most active from half an hour before sunset until an hour after sunset, and again starting an hour before sunrise (ending about 15 minutes after the sun comes up). They fly with looping, batlike bouts of continuous flapping and sporadic glides. Common Nighthawks are usually solitary, but they form large flocks during migration and males sometimes roost together. Large migrating flocks are most conspicuous in early evening, particularly as the birds gather above billboards and other bright lights to feed on insects. During the breeding season they are generally very territorial but in some areas may have overlapping territories. Males court females by diving through the air, making a booming sound as air rushes over their wings. The male eventually lands on the ground before the female, spreading and waggling his tail, and puffing out his throat to display his white throat patch, while croaking at her. Females incubate the eggs and young, leaving them unattended in the evening to feed. Both males and females feed regurgitated insects to their chicks. Parents perform diversion displays to draw intruders away from the nest. Common Nighthawks may be chased from feeding and breeding areas by smaller, more maneuverable bats and Lesser Nighthawks.

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Cyclicity

Comments: Most active during the early morning and evening and at night, but may also be seen during the day.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Common nighthawks are expected to live at least 4 to 5 years. The oldest known wild common nighthawk was 9 years old.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
9 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Common nighthawks are expected to live at least 4 to 5 years. The oldest known wild common nighthawk was 9 years old.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
9 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 9 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Clutch size 2. Incubation by female, about 19 days. Nestlings semi-precocial, tended by both parents, independent in about 30 days (Harrison 1978).

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There is little information available about the mating system of common nighthawks. Males court females by displaying on the ground and in flight. They begin by flying 5 to 30 meters into the air and then diving steeply toward the ground, pulling up sharply about 2 meters above the ground. This display is accompanied by a “booming” noise made by the air rushing through the primary feathers of the male. Males then land near the female, spreading and shaking their tail from side to side, displaying their white throat patch, and making a croaking noise.

Mating System: monogamous

Southern populations of common nighthawks may produce chicks as early as May, while northern populations may not produce young until August. Little is known about how breeding pairs form, or about their breeding activities. Female common nighthawks arrive first at the breeding grounds and choose the nest site. Some of return to the same nest sites every year. Common nighthawks probably breed once per year. We do not know how old they are when they first breed.

Females usually lay 2 eggs, 1 to 2 days apart. The eggs are pale, splotched with gray, brown, and black. The female incubates the eggs for 18 to 20 days, leaving the nest in early evening to feed. After the eggs hatch, the female continues to leave the nest to forage in the evening. She feeds regurgitated insects to the chicks before sunrise in the morning and after sunset in the evening. The nestlings are semiprecocial and can move themselves if called by the female when they are just a day old. The young can move themselves to shade or sun to regulate their body temperature. After 16 days, young can hop. At 18 days old, they make their first flight, and can fly well at about 25-30 days old. By the time they are 30 days old, chicks have left the nest for good. They are fully grown 45-50 days after hatching, and probably join migrating flocks at that time.

In southern parts of the breeding range, breeding pairs may have a second brood. If this happens, the male feeds the young of the first clutch while the female incubates the second clutch. He will also feed the female.

Breeding season: spring and summer

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Average eggs per season: 2.

Average time to hatching: 18-20 days.

Average fledging age: 18 days.

Average time to independence: 30 days.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 19 days.

Average eggs per season: 2.

The female of a breeding pair incubates the eggs and broods the young chicks. She may also move them around to put them into nearby shade. The parents feed the chicks regurgitated insects until they are able to feed themselves at age 25 days or so. The male defends the nest site by beating his wings and hissing at intruders. The female may also defend the nest site by hissing or pretending to be injured.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Poulin, R., S. Grindal, R. Brigham. 1996. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 213. Philadelphia, PA and Washington DC: The Academy of Natural Scientists and The American Ornithologists Union.
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There is little information available about the mating system of common nighthawks. Males court females by displaying on the ground and in flight. They begin by flying 5 to 30 meters into the air and then diving steeply toward the ground, pulling up sharply about 2 meters above the ground. This display is accompanied by a “booming” noise made by the air rushing through the primary feathers of the male. Males then land near the female, spreading and shaking their tail from side to side, displaying their white throat patch, and making a croaking noise.

Mating System: monogamous

Common nighthawk breeding phenology varies throughout their range, with more southerly populations producing young as early as May and northerly populations as late as August. Little is known about pair formation or breeding activity. Female common nighthawks have been shown to arrive first at their breeding grounds and select the nest site. Banded individuals have returned to the same nest sites over multiple years. The age at first breeding is unknown for this species. Common nighthawks are assumed to breed once per year.

Females typically lay 2 eggs, 1 to 2 days apart. The eggs are pale, splotched with gray, brown, and black. The female incubates the eggs, leaving the nest in early evening to feed. Incubation periods vary throughout the breeding range between 18-20 days. After the young hatch, the female continues to leave the nest site to forage in the evening. She feeds regurgitated insects to the young before sunrise in the morning and after sunset in the evening. Nestlings are semiprecocial and able to move in response to the female’s calls within a day of hatching. The young can move to shade or sun to regulate their body temperature. After 16 days, young can hop. At 18 days they make their first flight, and can fly well at about 25-30 days old. By the time they are 30 days old, chicks have left the nest for good. Full development is achieved at 45-50 days, after which young may join migrating flocks. In southern parts of the breeding range, pairs may have a second brood. In this case, the male takes over feeding the young of the first clutch while the female incubates the second clutch. He will also feed the female.

Breeding season: spring and summer

Range eggs per season: 1 to 2.

Average eggs per season: 2.

Average time to hatching: 18-20 days.

Average fledging age: 18 days.

Average time to independence: 30 days.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 19 days.

Average eggs per season: 2.

The female of a breeding pair incubates the eggs and broods the young chicks. Though the young are able to move themselves only one day after hatching, the female may move them around to take advantage of nearby shade. The parents feed the chicks regurgitated insects until they are able to feed themselves at age 25 days or so. The male defends the nest site by wing-beating and hissing at intruders. The female may also defend the nest site by feigning injury or hissing at an intruder.

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Poulin, R., S. Grindal, R. Brigham. 1996. Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, Vol. 213. Philadelphia, PA and Washington DC: The Academy of Natural Scientists and The American Ornithologists Union.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Chordeiles minor

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 4 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GGGGNN---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------GGCACAGGATGAACTGTATACCCCCCACTAGCTGGAAACCTAGCTCACGCCGGAGCTTCAGTAGACCTAGCCATCTTTTCCCTACACTTAGCAGGAGTCTCCTCCATCCTGGGTGCAATCAATTTTATCACCACCGCCATCAACATAAAACCTCCCGCCCTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCACTATTCGTGTGATCAGTCCTAATCACTGCAGTACTACTATTACTTTCCCTCCCAGTCCTGGCCGCAGGCATTACAATGCTACTAACCGACCGCAACCTAAATACCACATTCTTCGACCCCGCTGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTACTATACCAGCACCTCTTCTGATTCTTTGGATACCCAGAAGTATATATCCTCATTCTACCTGGTTTCGGAATAATTTCCCACGTAGTAACATACTTCGCAGGTAAAAAAGAACCATTCGGCTACATAGGAATAGTATGAGCCATACTATCAATTGGATTCCTAGGCTTCATTGTATGAGCCCATCACATA
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chordeiles minor

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N4B - Apparently Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Large breeding range mainly in North America; presumed large population size; many subpopulations; BBS data suggest long-term slow decline, possibly resulting from habitat loss, pesticide use, or increased predation on nests.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Populations of common nighthawks are declining. This is probably the result of many different human activities. Pesticides used in cities and on farms poison common nighthawks. The gravel roofs that many common nighthawks nest on are being replaced by rubber roofs. Common nighthawks that nest in cities are also in danger of predation by Felis silvestris and other species. Common nighthawks are sometimes killed by vehicles when roosting or feeding along roadways.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Populations of common nighthawks are declining. This decrease may be attributed to a variety of human activities. Indiscriminate pesticide use in cities and farmlands affects populations locally. In urban areas, replacement of gravel roofs with rubber roofs has reduced nesting sites for these populations. Increased predation is also a factor in general population decline. Urban nesters are especially vulnerable to predation by housecats. Common nighthawks are also killed by vehicles when roosting or feeding along roadways.

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable to decline of 30%

Comments: Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant survey-wide decline of 2.7 percent per year for 1980-2007; this amounts to a 24 percent decline per 10 years, but the decline has been less than this over the most recent 10 years. Generation time is uncertain, but three generations probably is between 10 and 20 years. Using BBS data, the decline over the last 15 years is roughly 23 percent. However, this species is difficult to monitor, and the extent to which BBS data reflect actual population trends is uncertain.

Global Long Term Trend: Unknown

Comments: Long-term trend over past 200 years is unknown. Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data indicate a significant survey-wide decline of 1.7 percent per year for 1966-2007; this amounts to a 50 percent decline in abundance during the time period. BBS abundance declined from an average of around 2.5 birds per route in the 1960s to an average of around 1.4-1.5 birds per route in 2000-2007, so the decline is only about 1 bird per route..

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Population

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: Cause of the apparent decline is unknown but presumably is related loss of breeding habitat, indiscriminate use of pesticides, and increased predation on nests (by cats, dogs, and increased populations of native predators that benefit from anthropogenic food resources) (Ehrlich et al. 1992, Poulin et al. 1996)

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Management

Global Protection: Very many (>40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many occurrences are in protected areas.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Common nighthawks have no known negative impact on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since common nighthawks are insect eaters that frequent farm fields and cities, it is likely that they help control pest insect species.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Common nighthawks have no known negative impact on humans.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since common nighthawks are insect eaters that frequent farm fields and cities, it is likely that they help control pest insect species.

Positive Impacts: controls pest population

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Wikipedia

Common Nighthawk

The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is a medium-sized [3][4] crepuscular or nocturnal bird,[3][5] whose presence and identity are best revealed by its vocalization. Typically dark[3] (grey, black and brown[5]), displaying cryptic colouration and intricate patterns, this bird becomes invisible by day. Once aerial, with its buoyant but erratic flight, this bird is most conspicuous. The most remarkable feature of this aerial insectivore is its small beak belies the massiveness of its mouth. Some claim appearance similarities to owls. With its horizontal stance[3] and short legs, the Common Nighthawk does not travel frequently on the ground, instead preferring to perch horizontally, parallel to branches, on posts, on the ground or on a roof.[5] The males of this species may roost together but the bird is primarily solitary. The Common Nighthawk shows variability in territory size.[4]

This caprimulguid has a large, flattened head with large eyes; facially it lacks rictal bristles. The Common Nighthawk has long slender wings that at rest extend beyond a notched tail. There is noticeable barring on the sides and abdomen,[4] also white wing-patches.[3]

The Common Nighthawk measures 22 to 25 cm (8.7 to 9.8 in) long,[4] displays a wing span of 51 to 61 cm (20 to 24 in)[6] weighs 55 to 98 g (1.9 to 3.5 oz),[4][6] and has a life span of 4 to 5 years.[4]

Pseudonyms[edit]

The Common Nighthawk is sometimes called a "bull-bat", due to its perceived "bat-like" flight, and the "bull-like" boom made by its wings as it pulls from a dive.[6] Another name is "goatsucker", from an archaic, erroneous idea that the birds would fly into barns at night and suck dry the teats of goats.[3][5]

Taxonomy[edit]

Within family Caprimulgidae, subfamily Chordeilinae (Nighthawks) are limited to the New World and are distinguished from the subfamily Caprimulginae, by the lack of rictal bristles.

The American Orinthologists' Union treated the smaller Antillean Nighthawk as conspecific with the Common Nighthawk until 1982.[4]

Up until the early 19th century, the Common Nighthawk and the Whip-poor-will were thought to be one species. The latter's call was explained as the nocturnal expression of the Common Nighthawk. Alexander Wilson, "The Father of American Ornithology", correctly made the differentiation between the two species.

Subspecies[edit]

Chordeiles minor panamensis (Eisenmann, 1962)

  • breeds on
    • Pacific slope of Panama and north west Costa Rica
    • noted to depart Panama during winter for points in South America

Chordeiles minor neotropicalis (Selander & Alvarez del Toro, 1955)

  • breeds in
    • south Mexico
    • Honduras

Chordeiles minor howelli (Oberholser, 1914)

  • breeds in
    • west central United States (north Texas, west Oklahoma, and Kansas to east Colorado, less typical form in central Colorado, north east Utah and Wyoming)
  • darker than sennetti and paler and less cinnamon than henryi

Chordeiles minor hesperis (Grinnell, 1905)

  • breeds in
    • south west Canada (British Columbia and Alberta)
    • western interior of United States (Washington, Montana, Nevada, interior California, Utah, extreme north Colorado, west Wyoming)
  • darker than sennetti and paler and less cinnamon than henryi

Chordeiles minor aserriensis (Cherrie, 1896)

  • breeds from
    • south central Texas to north Mexico
  • darker than sennetti and paler and less cinnamon than henryi

Chordeiles minor chapmani (Coues, 1888)

  • breeds from
    • South East Kansas to east North Carolina and southwards to south east Texas and south Florida
  • darkest

Chordeiles minor sennetti (Coues, 1888)

  • breeds in
    • north Great Plains: east Montana, south Saskatchewan
    • Manitoba, southwards to North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa
  • palest

Chordeiles minor henryi (Cassin, 1855)

  • breeds from
    • south east Utah and south west Colorado through mountains of west Texas, Arizona and New Mexico (less north east) to east Sonora, Chihuahua, and Durango
  • unique with ochraceous to deep cinnamon feather edges on upperparts

Chordeiles minor minor (J. R. Forster, 1771)

  • breeds from
    • south east Alaska to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
    • south Canada/northern United States (Minnesota, Indiana) to Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma
  • darkest[7]

History[edit]

This species is recorded as widespread during the Late Pleistocene, from Virginia to California and from Wyoming to Texas.[4]

In the late 19th and early 20th century, because they held the title of "hawk" in their names, had habits of diurnal insect hunting, and the fact that they travelled in migrating flocks, worked against these birds in that they were hunted for sport, nourishment and as predators.[6]

Field identification[edit]

The Common Nighthawk is distinct from other caprimulguids with its showing of a forked tail (includes a white bar in males); long, unbarred, pointed wings with a distinguished white patch; the lack of rictal bristles, and the key identifier – their unmistakable calls.[7] These birds range from 21 to 25 cm (8.3 to 9.8 in) in total length and from 51 to 61 cm (20 to 24 in) in wingspan.[8] Body mass can vary from 55 to 98 g (1.9 to 3.5 oz). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 17.2 to 21.3 cm (6.8 to 8.4 in), the tail is 13 to 15.1 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in), the bill is 0.5 to 0.8 cm (0.20 to 0.31 in) and the tarsus is 1.2 to 1.6 cm (0.47 to 0.63 in).

The Common Nighthawk resembles both the Antillean Nighthawk and Lesser Nighthawk. The Lesser Nighthawk is a smaller bird and displays more buffy on the undertail coverts, where the Common Nighthawk shows white. Common Nighthawks and Antillean Nighthawks exhibit entirely dark on the basal portion of the primary feathers, whereas Lesser Nighthawks have bands of buffy spots. Common Nighthawks and Antillean Nighthawks have a longer, outermost primary conveying a pointier wing tip than the Lesser Nighthawk. The Common Nighthawk forages higher above ground than the Lesser Nighthawk and has a different call. The Antillean Nighthawk may only be distinguished as different from the Common Nighthawk, once in the hand. Subtle differences are recorded to be a challenge in field identification.[4]

Habitat and distribution[edit]

The Common Nighthawk may be found in forests, desert, savannahs, beach and desert scrub, cities,[3] and prairies,[4] at elevations of sea level or below to 3,000 m (9,800 ft).[3] They are one of a handful of birds that are known to inhabit recently burned forests, and then dwindle in numbers, as successional growth occurs over the succeeding years or decades. The Common Nighthawk is drawn into urban built-up areas by insects.[5]

The Common Nighthawk is the only Nighthawk occurring over the majority of northern North America.

Food availability is likely a key factor in determining which and when areas are suitable for habitation. The Common Nighthawk is not well designed to survive in poor conditions, specifically low food availability. Therefore, a constant food supply consistent with warmer temperatures is a driving force for migration and ultimately survival.

It is thought that the bird is not able to enter torpor,[4] although recent evidence suggests the opposite.[7]

Migration[edit]

Journey length 2,500 to 6,800 kilometres (1,600 to 4,200 mi).

The Common Nighthawk will migrate by day or night in loose flocks; frequently numbering in the thousands,[6] no visible leader has been observed. The enormous distance travelled between breeding grounds and wintering range displays one of the North America's longer migrations. The northbound journey commences at the end of February and the birds reach destinations as late as mid-June. The southbound migration commences mid-July and reaches a close in early October.[4]

Common Nighthawk in flight, near Miami, Florida

While migrating, these birds have been reported travelling through middle America, Florida, the West Indies,[6] Cuba, the Caribbean and Bermuda,[4] finally completing their journey in the wintering grounds of South America,[6][7] primarily Argentina.[7]

As aerial insectivores, the migrants will feed in route,[6] congregating to hunt in marshes, rivers and on lakeshores. In Manitoba and Ontario, Canada, it is reported that during migration the Nighthawks are seen most commonly in the late afternoon, into the evening,[4][5] with a burst of sunset feeding activities.[5]

Additionally, it has been noted that during migration the birds may fly closer to the ground than normal; possibly foraging for insects. There is speculation that feeding also occurs at higher altitudes.

The Common Nighthawk winters in southern South America, but distribution in this range is poorly known due to difficulties in distinguishing the bird from the Lesser Nighthawk and in differentiating between migrants and over wintering birds. In some South and Central American countries, a lack of study has led to restricted and incomplete records of the bird. Records do support wintering in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.[4]

Moult[edit]

In the Common Nighthawk all bodily plumage and rectrices are replaced in the post-juvenile moult. Post-juvenile moult commences in September at the breeding grounds; majority of the body plumage is replaced but wing-coverts and rectrices are not completed until January–February, once the bird arrives at the wintering grounds. There is no other moult prior to the annual moult of the adult. The Common Nighthawk adults have a complete moult that occurs mostly or completely on wintering grounds and is not ceased until January or February.[7]

Behavior[edit]

Vocalization[edit]

No differences between calls or song in the Common Nighthawk. The most conspicuous vocalization is a nasal peent or beernt during even flight. Peak vocalizations are reported 30 to 45 minutes after sunset.

Bird call of the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)

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Croaking auk auk auk vocalized by males while in the presence of a female during courtship. Another courtship sound, thought to be made solely by the males, is the boom, created by air rushing through the primaries after a quick down flex of the wings during a daytime dive.

Hissing cluck heard by females, and wing-clapping by male during nest defence. Strongly territorial males perform dives against fledglings, females and intruders such as humans or raccoons.[4]

Feeding and diet[edit]

Frequent flyers, the long-winged Common Nighthawk hunts on the wing[7] for extended periods at high altitudes or in open areas.[5] Crepuscular, flying insects are its preferred food source. Cessation of the hunt as dusk becomes night, resumes when night becomes dawn.[7] Nighttime (darkness) feeding is rare,[4] even on evenings with a full moon.[7] The bird displays opportunistic feeding tendencies, although it may be able to fine-tune its meal choice in the moments before capture.

Vision is presumed to be the main detection sense; no evidence exists to support the use of echolocation. The birds have been observed to converge on artificial light sources in an effort to forage for insects enticed by the light.[4] The average flight speed of Common Nighthawks is 23.4 kilometers per hour.[9]

Drinking, pellet-casting and droppings[edit]

The Common Nighthawk was observed to drink on its winter range by flying extremely low over the surface of the water.[10]

No evidence suggests this bird casts pellets.

The Common Nighthawk is recognized to discharge feces around nest and roosting positions. The bird will sporadically defecate in flight. Defecation is pungent.[4]

Reproduction and nesting[edit]

The Common Nighthawk breeds during the period of mid-March to early October.[6] It most commonly has only one brood per season, however sometimes a second brood. The bird is assumed to breed every year. Reuse of nests by females in subsequent years has been reported.[4] A monogamous pattern has also recently been confirmed.[7]

Courting and mate selection occur partially in flight. The male dives and booms (see Vocalization) in an effort to garner female attention;[4][5] the female may be in flight herself or stationary on the ground.

Copulation occurs when the pair settles on the ground together; the male with his rocking body, widespread tail wagging and bulging throat expresses guttural croaking sounds. This display by the male is performed repeatedly until copulation.[4]

The preferred breeding–nesting habitat is in forested regions with expansive rocky outcrops, in clearings, in burned areas[5] or in small patches of sandy gravel.[4] The eggs are not laid in a nest, but on bare rock, gravel[5] or sometimes a living substrate such as lichen.[4] Least popular are breeding sites in agricultural settings.[11] As displayed in the latter portion of the 20th century, urban breeding is in decline.[5] If urban breeding sites do occur, they are observed on flat, gravel rooftops.

It is a solitary nester putting great distances between itself and other pairs of the same species, but a nest would more commonly occur in closer proximity to other species of birds.

Females choose the nest site and are the primary incubators of the eggs (males will incubate occasionally). Incubation time varies but is approximately 18 days. The female will leave the nest unattended during the evening in order to feed. The male will roost in a neighbouring tree (the spot he chooses changes daily); he guards the nest by diving, hissing, wing-beating or booming at the sites. In the face of predation, Common Nighthawks do not abandon the nest easily; instead they likely rely on their cryptic colouration to camouflage themselves. If a departure does occur, the females have been noted to fly away, hissing at the intruder[4] or performing a disturbance display.[7]

Incubation, hatching and young[edit]

The eggs are elliptical, strong, and variably coloured with heavy speckling. The Common Nighthawk displays two 6–7g eggs per clutch; the eggs are laid over a period of 1 to 2 days. The female alone displays a brood patch.

The infants may be heard peeping in the hours before they hatch. Once the infants have broken out of the shells, the removal of the debris is necessary in order to avoid predators. The mother may carry the eggshells to another location or consume a portion of them. Once hatched, the nestlings are active and have their eyes fully or half open; additionally they display a sparing cover of soft down feathers. The infants are semiprecocial. By day 2, the hatchlings' bodily mass will double and they will be able to self-propel towards their mother's call. The young will hiss at an intruder.

The young are fed by regurgitation before sunrise and after sunset. The male parent assists in feeding fledglings and will also feed the female during nesting. No records exist to support a parent's ability to physically carry a chick.

On their 18th day, the young will make their first flight; by days 25–30, they are flying proficiently. The young are last seen with their parents on day 30. Complete development is shown between their 45–50th day. At day 52, the juvenile will join the flock, potentially migrating. Juvenile birds, in both sexes, are lighter in colour and have a smaller white wing-patch than adult Common Nighthawks.[4]

Predators[edit]

Like other members of the caprimulgid clan, the nighthawk's ground nesting habits endanger eggs and nestlings to predation by ground carnivores, such as skunks, raccoons and opossums.[12] Confirmed predation on adults is restricted to domestic cats, golden eagles and great horned owls.[13] Peregrine falcons have also been confirmed to attack nighthawks as prey, although the one recorded predation attempt was unsuccessful.[14] Other suspected predators are likely to attack them, such as dogs, coyotes, foxes, hawks, American kestrels,[15] owls, crows and ravens and snakes.[16]

Status and conservation[edit]

Painting by Robert W. Hines

There has been a general decline in the number of Common Nighthawks in North America, but some population increases also have occurred[4] in other geographical locations.[7] The bird's large range makes individual risk thresholds in specific regions difficult to establish.[1]

The Common Nighthawk's trait of being a ground-nesting bird makes it particularly susceptible to predators, some of which include domestic cats, ravens, snakes, dogs, coyotes, falcons and owls.

Lack of flat roofs, pesticides,[4] increased predation and loss of habitat[7] are noted factors of their decline. Further unstudied potential causes of decline include climate change, disease, road kills, man-made towers (posing aerial hazards) and parasites.[4]

The absence of flat roofs (made with gravel) in urban settings is an important cause of decline. In an effort to provide managed breeding areas, gravel pads have been added in the corners of rubberized roofs; this proves acceptable, as nesting has been observed.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Chordeiles minor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Chordeiles minor". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 25 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behaviour. Chanticleer Press, Inc., 2001.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Poulin, R., Grindal, S., & Brigham, R. 1996. "Common Nighthawk. No. 213." The Birds of North America. The American Ornithologists' Union.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Manitoba Avian Research Committee, Manitoba Naturalists Society. The Birds of Manitoba. Friesens Printers, 2003.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Elphick, J. Atlas of Bird Migration. Firefly Books, 2007.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Holyoak, D.T. (2001): Nightjars and their Allies: the Caprimulgiformes. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854987-3.
  8. ^ "Common Nighthawk". MountainNature.com. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  9. ^ Brigham, R. M., M. B. Fenton and H. D. J N. Aldridge. 1998. "Flight Speed of Foraging Common Nighthawks (Chordeiles minor): Does the Measurement Technique Matter?" American Midland Naturalist 139(2):325-330
  10. ^ Canevari, M., Canevari, P., Carrizo, G., Harris, G., Mata, J., & Straneck, R. 1991. Nueva guia de las aves Argentinas. 2 vols. Fundacion Acindar, Buenos Aires, cited in Poulin, R., Grindal, S., & Brigham, R. 1996. "Common Nighthawk. No. 213." The Birds of North America. The American Ornithologists' Union.
  11. ^ Gillette, L. 1991. "Survey of Common Nighthawks in Minnesota, 1990". The Loon, 62:141-143, cited in Manitoba Avian Research Committee, Manitoba Naturalists Society. The Birds of Manitoba. Friesens Printers, 2003, p. 238.
  12. ^ Kantrud, H. A. and K. F. Higgins. 1992. Nest and nest site characteristics of some groundnesting, nonpasserine birds of northern grasslands. Prairie Nat. 24:67-84.
  13. ^ Olendorff, R. R. (1976). The food habits of North American golden eagles. American Midland Naturalist, 231-236.
  14. ^ Bennett, G. 1987. A vellication of nighthawks. Birdfinding in Canada 7:16.
  15. ^ Gross, A. O. 1940. Eastern Nighthawk. Pages 206-234 in Life histories of North American cuckoos, goatsuckers, hummingbirds, and their allies. (Bent, A. C., Ed.) U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 176.
  16. ^ Marzilli, V. 1989. Up on the roof. Maine Fish and Wildlife 31:25-29.
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Notes

"Cool facts"

On warm summer evenings, Common Nighthawks roam the skies over treetops, grasslands, and cities. Their sharp, electric peent call is often the first clue they’re overhead. In the dim half-light, these long-winged birds fly in graceful loops, flashing white patches out past the bend of each wing as they chase insects. These fairly common but declining birds make no nest. Their young are so well camouflaged that they’re hard to find, and even the adults seem to vanish as soon as they land.

On summer evenings, keep an eye and an ear out for the male Common Nighthawk’s dramatic “booming” display flight. Flying at a height slightly above the treetops, he abruptly dives for the ground. As he peels out of his dive (sometimes just a few meters from the ground) he flexes his wings downward, and the air rushing across his wingtips makes a deep booming or whooshing sound, as if a racecar has just passed by. The dives may be directed at females, territorial intruders, and even people.

The Common Nighthawk’s impressive booming sounds during courtship dives, in combination with its erratic, bat-like flight, have earned it the colloquial name of “bullbat.” The name “nighthawk” itself is a bit of a misnomer, since the bird is neither strictly nocturnal—it’s active at dawn and dusk—nor closely related to hawks.

Many Late Pleistocene fossils of Common Nighthawks, up to about 400,000 years old, have been unearthed between Virginia and California and from Wyoming to Texas.

Common Nighthawks, which have one of the longest migration routes of all North American birds, sometimes show up far out of range. They have been recorded in Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, and multiple times on the British Isles.

The oldest Common Nighthawk on record was 10 years old.

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Chordeiles minor and C. gundlachii are treated as conspecific by some authors (AOU 1983; see Stevenson et al. 1983 for differences) and constitute a superspecies (AOU 1998). See Dickerman (1990) for information on plumage variation of juveniles in North America (some discussion of subspecies).

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