Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawks are medium-sized, slender birds with long pointed wings. On the underside of the wings they have distinct white patches near the end, oe "wrist." They have very short legs, a tiny bill, and small flat head with very dark eyes. Looking rather round while perched, in flight they are fairly slim. Nighthawks have excellent camouflage, with gray, white, buff, and black patches mottled throughout their feathers, blending in so completely well. They are sometimes often mistaken as a small or baby owl, when in fact they just have similar plumage patterns. If you see one during the day, leave it alone! It is resting before an evening of hunting insects.
SCIENTIFIC NAME
Chordeiles minor
CLASSIFICATION
Bird
LIFE SPAN
4-5 Years
SIZE
8.7-9.4 ” | 0.14-0.22 lbs
STATE CONSERVATION STATUS
  • Priority Species
FEDERAL CONSERVATION STATUS
Least Concern
GAME STATUS
Non-Game
GAME TYPE
None
  1. Washoe
  2. Humboldt
  3. Pershing
  4. Churchill
  5. Mineral
  6. Lyon
  7. Douglas
  8. Carson City
  9. Storey
  1. Elko
  2. Lander
  3. Eureka
  4. White Pine
  1. Esmeralda
  2. Nye
  3. Lincoln
  4. Clark

Habitat & Range

Common Nighthawks are found across the northern portion of Nevada, but are long distance migrants often found outside of their range. They are most visible when they are hunting for insects on the wing; found over open areas near woods or wetlands, wherever insects are present. They can sometimes even be spotted hunting in flight in erratic looping patterns in front of well-lit billboards and street lights. These birds are crepuscular, meaning they are active at dusk and at dawn. It’s common to spot them nesting on the ground or in open areas during the day, including forest clearings, gravel bars, sand dunes, even open grasslands. They can also rest during the day in low shrubs or on tree branches.

  • Developed Landscapes
  • Grasslands
  • Upland Forests

Threats

  • Habitat Loss
  • Pesticides

Natural History

Common Nighthawks are insectivores, eating flying insects almost exclusively. They are most active at dawn and dusk, and hunt by opening their tiny beak and inhaling insects using their bristle lined mouths. They often take advantage of insect swarms around streetlamps and other urban structures. Using their long, pointed wings they can make acrobatic movements to maneuver to pursue prey.

Fun Facts

Despite its name, the Common Nighthawk is not closely related to hawks. They are also known as "goatsuckers" due to widespread, but false myth, that it visits barns at night to suckle goat's milk, it’s only interested in insects!