Saturday, 2 February 2013

Common Nighthawk

order : Caprimulgiformes      Genus & Species : Caprimulgidae     Family : Chordeiles minor

The “peent” call of the nighthawk joins the dusk chorus in many American cities, as this bird sets out on its zigzagging flight, twisting to and fro through swarms of flying insects. The nighthawk has long, pointed wings for fast, agile, falconlike flight and a highly specialized bill for scooping insects out of the skies. They breeds in North and Central America . 

Habitat : The nighthawk is a country bird that has prospered in town. It favors open spaces; common rural habitats include barren, rocky land, pebble beaches and farm fields.The nighthawk is also found in large clearings of forested areas. Its love for conifer country laid open by forest fires has given it the name “burnt-land bird.” The nighthawk likes stony nesting sites and started to spread to towns after the first buildings with flat, graveled roofs were erected in the 19th century. Roof nests are less vulnerable to predators, so now more nighthawks breed in towns than in the country. 
Food & Hunting : The nighthawk is a voracious eater of flying insects, all of which are captured on the wing as the bird twists through the air with its wide mouth open. Although the nighthawk hunts mostly for short periods, it catches large amounts of insects rapidly. It needs to — it uses a lot of energy during its zigzagging flight. One bird was found to have more than 2,000 flying ants in its stomach. Moths and mosquitoes also figure high on a menu that may include grasshoppers and beetles. Some insects, such as Colorado beetles and weevils, are agricultural pests. As a result, the nighthawk, once wrongly accused of killing poultry chicks, is now regarded as a friend by farmers. 
Behavior : The nighthawk is active at dawn and dusk, but may hunt in daylight, particularly in overcast weather. It normally sleeps by day, perched lengthwise on a branch so it resembles a broken stump. Its mottled plumage renders it almost invisible against tree bark. The nighthawk also relies on camouflage at its nest. Only at the last moment will it react to an intruder, either by scaring it by opening its gaping mouth and hissing with wings raised or by feigning injury to distract the predator from its brood. On its breeding grounds, the bird is normally seen singly or in pairs but large flocks gather at migration times. 
Breeding : The nighthawk reaches its North and Central American breeding grounds in spring, after a winter spent in warmer southern climates. By the time it arrives, most other bird species have begun to breed. A spectacular feature of the male’s courtship display is his “diveand- boom” routine. He swoops toward his mate as she rests at their breeding site. As he veers abruptly upward, only a few feet above her, air rushing through his wing feathers produces a roar that gave the bird its old names of “bullbat” and “booming nighthawk.” When he lands near his mate after his aerial display, he wags his fanned tail and rocks his body while making a deep croak as he expands his white throat patch. The female lays a clutch on bare ground, a rooftop, even an old fence rail. The female incubates the eggs, but the male helps her feed the young. Parents regurgitate insects directly into the throat of each chick. In about one month, chicks can feed themselves. 


Bill : The bill is tiny, but has a wide gape for catching flying insects.The wide gape is also used in a threat display. 
Eyes : The large eyes give superb vision when the bird is hunting in the twilight. 
Plumage : Both sexes have white wing patches, but only the male has a white band on the tail.The crescent on his throat is also white, whereas the female has a smaller, buff-colored throat. 
Feet & Legs : These are short and weak. The nighthawk, in common with all nightjars, has a comblike central claw with which it combs and cleans its bill area after hunting. 


Weight : 2.5–2.75 oz.
Length : 9-9.5"
Wingspan : 21.5-26"
Sexual Maturity : 1 year
Breeding Season : March-August


The nighthawk’s booming call has been compared to the sound made by blowing in the mouth of a soda bottle.