Lesser Nighthawk

ID Info
Silhouette NightjarsNightjars

Lesser Nighthawk

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

The highly camouflaged Lesser Nighthawk sits motionless during the day, but takes flight as the desert heat starts to dissipate. In the glow of twilight, the Lesser Nighthawk flies almost like a butterfly on buoyant wings with its mouth wide open, inhaling insects that fly near. A white bar across the wings flashes against the darkening sky as a gurgled laugh reverberates in the air. This aerial acrobat nests on the bare ground in deserts and scrublands, without putting down even a blade of grass.

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

Find This Bird

The best time to see a Lesser Nighthawk is just before dusk. When the sun starts to dip under the horizon, head out to the desert. Look for an area that provides an expansive view of both the ground and the sky, such as a dry wash or a sparsely vegetated creosote flat. They tend to fly low to the ground, so watch for dark forms moving buoyantly over the tops of low plants. Lesser Nighthawks move about quite a bit searching for insect swarms, and you should too—check out street lights for swarming insects and a nighthawk may flutter through with its mouth wide open.

Other Names
  • Añapero Garrapena (Spanish)
  • Engoulevent minime (French)
  • Cool Facts