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Common Nighthawk, Uncommon Sound

Nighthawk - not really a hawk at all!

At dusk, the Common Nighthawk chases down aerial insects. Not really a hawk at all, the nighthawk is related to the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Originally nesting on open ground along rivers or other gravelly stretches, the Common Nighthawk has adapted to city life in many areas and will nest on gravel rooftops. Sign up for our Weekly Preview & get stunning photos of birds featured in upcoming shows. 

Full Transcript



Common Nighthawk, Uncommon Sound

Written by Bob Sundstrom.

This is BirdNote!
[Typical “peeent” flight calls of the Common Nighthawk]
This bird-sound vividly evokes a warm summer evening. It’s the flight call of the Common Nighthawk.
[Common Nighthawk “peeent” flight calls]
Loping overhead with its long slender wings at dusk, the nighthawk chases down aerial insects with sudden, choppy shifts of direction.
Not really a hawk at all, the Common Nighthawk is closely related to the more fully nocturnal nightjars, such as the Whip-poor-will of eastern North America. Nighthawks and nightjars have short bills but very wide-opening mouths with which they seem to vacuum up their insect prey.
The Common Nighthawk travels here from Brazil and other South American countries, where it winters. They arrive with remarkable precision from these monumental journeys.
Watch for them overhead just after sunset. Their dark bodies are robin-sized, but they have much longer wings, like two dark boomerangs propelling their erratic flight. Or better yet, listen for them. With luck, you may witness the male’s territorial display as it dives sharply toward the earth only to pull up at last second, while the air rushes through its wing feathers, creating a startling wallop of sound.
[Finish with the male’s booming sound]
Would you like to receive stunning photos each week of the birds we’ll feature in the week ahead? If so, come to and sign up on the link entitled “Weekly Preview Sign-Up.” For BirdNote, I’m Frank Corrado.
Call and booming sound of the Common Nighthawk provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call recorded by R. Righter websound; booming sound recorded by G.A. Keller.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2011 Tune In to   June 2011   Narrator: Frank Corrado



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