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Merlin Bird ID

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    Common Nighthawk

    ID Info
    Silhouette NightjarsNightjars

    Common Nighthawk

    Chordeiles minor
    • ORDER: Caprimulgiformes
    • FAMILY: Caprimulgidae
    Basic Description

    On warm summer evenings, Common Nighthawks roam the skies over treetops, grasslands, and cities. Their sharp, electric peent call is often the first clue they’re overhead. In the dim half-light, these long-winged birds fly in graceful loops, flashing white patches out past the bend of each wing as they chase insects. These fairly common but declining birds make no nest. Their young are so well camouflaged that they’re hard to find, and even the adults seem to vanish as soon as they land.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Common NighthawkRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Common Nighthawks are easiest to see in flight at dawn and dusk as they forage for aerial insects. Pick a high overlook with a good view of a river, if possible. In towns, look for nighthawks over brightly lit areas such as billboards, stadium lights, and streetlights. Scan the darkening sky and you’ll likely find some bats zipping around with their frenzied flapping—but look for a larger, bounding, long-winged shape. If you don’t see one, listen for low, buzzy peent calls. If you are in an area with breeding nighthawks, pay attention for the bizarre booming noise of a territorial or courtship flight.

    Other Names
    • Chotacabras Zumbón (Spanish)
    • Engoulevent d'Amérique (French)
    • Cool Facts