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Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor


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Common Nighthawk
credit: Gavin Keefe Schaefer/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Caprimulgidae, Nightjars view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has blackish brown plumage overall. Upperparts are finely marked with fine black and whitish lines (looks like tree bark); throat is white and underparts have dark brown barring on pale background. Note white band across primaries in resting birds and in flight. Tail has white subterminal band, only obvious in flight. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but throat patch is buff, wing patch is less striking and white tail band is typically absent. JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 10" (25 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor (mainly May-Sep) to open areas such as forest openings.

Observation Tips Roosting birds often perch conspicuously; sometimes hawks for insects around streetlights.

Range Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, California, Plains, Florida, Great Lakes, Western Canada, Northwest, Alaska, New England, Texas, Eastern Canada, Rocky Mountains, Southwest

Voice Male's call is a strangled, rather froglike we-ert or pe-ert, uttered in flight.

Similar Species Lesser Nighthawk C. acutipennis (L 8-9.5 in) is smaller with relatively shorter wings and tail. Plumage is more rufous and intricate with square-ended tail. Male's call is a trilling whistle. Summer visitor; mainly western range extends to arid areas of southern Texas.

Discussion Our most familiar nighthawk. Feeds mostly after dark (sometimes at dusk) catching flying insects in huge mouth. Often roosts on tree branch or post. In flight, looks long-winged with white wing patches and long, forked tail. Sexes are separable.