Published on February 16, 2013 by Amy
The genus name is a combination of two Greek words, choros (a circular dance) and deile (evening). This probably refers to the flights a Nighthawk makes when trying to catch insects in the evening. The species name is Latin meaning “smaller,” because when this species was named it was being compared to the Nightjar found in Europe.
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Size: 24 cm (9.5 in) in length. Color: Mottled gray-brown overall; white bar on wing near the end of the flight feathers; white throat; barring on chest and belly. Other things to look for: Wings are long, thin, and pointed. The call of this species is a nasal peent.
The breeding season begins in mid-April, peaks later that month through mid-June, and extends into mid-July. Nesting habitat is primarily roof-tops for inland birds and flat coastal areas for coastal birds. No nest is built. The female lays 1-3 (usually 2) eggs that she incubates for approximately 19 days. The young are semi-precocial and start to fly around 23 days after hatching. They remain dependent on adults until they are about a month old. During that time they are fed by both the male and female, but only the female broods them.
The Common Nighthawk has adapted to city life. The introduction of flat-topped gravel roofs created a new nesting habitat for this species, and the lighting systems around buildings attract many insects. Its diet consists of insects, which it captures with its bill while in flight. This species is nocturnal, spending much of its time hunting and singing in the late evenings around dusk.
This species is common throughout the United States during the breeding season. Winters are spent in South America. During the breeding season, it is common throughout the Southeast, except in the mountainous regions.
This species is common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as requiring any special conservation attention in any portion of its southeastern range.
In the Southeast, two other common species that may look similar are the Chuck-will’s-widow and the Whip-poor-will. Both the Chuck-will’s-widow and the Whip-poor-will are also nocturnal, with most of their activities occurring at dusk and dawn. They both lack the bold white wing bars of the Common Nighthawk and have broad rounded tails and wings. The songs of all three species also are distinctively different from one another.