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Species Description

Common Nighthawk

Chordeiles minor


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae

Description

Mottled gray-brown overall; white bar on wing near the end of the flight feathers; white throat; barring on chest and belly. 24 cm (9.5 in) in length. Wings are long, thin, and pointed. The call of this species is a nasal peent.

Habitat

Nesting habitat is primarily roof-tops for inland birds and flat coastal areas for coastal birds.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-April, peaks later that month through mid-June, and extends into mid-July. No nest is built. The female lays 1-3 (usually 2) eggs that she incubates for approximately 19 days. The young are semi-precocial and start to fly around 23 days after hatching. They remain dependent on adults until they are about a month old. During that time they are fed by both the male and female, but only the female broods them.

Natural History

The Common Nighthawk has adapted to city life. The introduction of flat-topped gravel roofs created a new nesting habitat for this species, and the lighting systems around buildings attract many insects. Its diet consists of insects, which it captures with its bill while in flight. This species is nocturnal, spending much of its time hunting and singing in the late evenings around dusk.

Range

Common Nighthawk Region Map This species is common throughout the United States during the breeding season. Winters are spent in South America. During the breeding season, it is common throughout the Southeast, except in the mountainous regions.

Conservation Status

This species is common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as requiring any special conservation attention in any portion of its southeastern range.

Similar Species

In the Southeast, two other common species that may look similar are the Chuck-will's-widow and the Whip-poor-will. Both the Chuck-will's-widow and the Whip-poor-will are also nocturnal, with most of their activities occurring at dusk and dawn. They both lack the bold white wing bars of the Common Nighthawk and have broad rounded tails and wings. The songs of all three species also are distinctively different from one another.