Common Nighthawk

Common NighthawkChordeiles minor
Don’t let the name fool you, common nighthawks are neither common nor hawks. Threatened throughout Canada and of special concern in Quebec due to population declines across their range. Nighthawks are part of the goatsucker family, a group of nocturnal insectivores that boast some of the most impressive camouflage in the avian world.

Identification

Common nighthawks are a medium sized bird with short legs, a tiny beak and huge eye. Their back is mottled grey to light brown and helps conceal them when they are on the ground where they almost seem to disappear. Common nighthawks are most often seen in flight at dusk and dawn when they can be identified by their very long pointed wings with a white patch near the tip and grey/white barred underside. Males can be identified by the white stripe near the outer edge of their tail but are otherwise similar to the females. Juveniles can be distinguished from adults by the absence of a white throat patch.

Diet

Nighthawks are strict aerial insectivores. This means that they prey only on flying insects such as beetles, mayflies and moths

Nesting

This is a late nesting species with nesting often beginning in June! As for the nest, nighthawks do not make nests and will instead lay 2 dark tan, heavily spotted eggs directly on the ground.

Where to find them

Common nighthawks are a migratory species, in Quebec they generally arrive towards the end of May and leave in early fall. In more remote areas they tend to be found in areas with lots of exposed bedrock where they nest, in urban areas nighthawks will use flat gravel rooftops as a substitute. The best time to find them is at dusk and dawn when the birds are most active. When in flight the birds will often give a nasally “peent” call which betrays their presence.