Common Nighthawk

Although somewhat similar in appearance to
the Eastern Whip-poor-will, the Common Nighthawk has very different habits. This bird is much more likely to be found just before or
after sunset. Breeding males perform an aerial display which produces
 a non-vocal sound referred to as a “boom” as part of courtship and territory establishment. These birds can be easily identified by their white wing patches as they pursue insects on the wing, often giving a “peent”
call throughout. They are associated with a range of habitats including
 sand dunes, logged forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. Eggs are
laid on the ground in open areas and can be found on gravel, leaf litter,
 bare rock, and cinder substrates. The mostly white eggs depend on the cryptic plumage of the incubating female to avoid predation. When the eggs or young are threatened, females will feign injury to draw potential predators away. Males sometimes defend the nest site with hissing and wing beating.

Safe Dates: June 5th to July 25th (applicable for only the S or H
codes).
Breeding Evidence: If you hear the vocal “peent” or “beret” call while the birds are in flight in the appropriate breeding timeframe, use code S and upgrade to S7 if heard at the same location 7 or more days later. For wing-boom sounds by the male, use code C as this is associated with an aerial display.

Image courtesy of David S. Hall.

Audio courtesy of Bruce Lagerquist.

© 2019 Logan Parker

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is a part of the Maine Natural History Observatory