Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Common Nighthawk - a bump on a log

"Jessica!  Come check out this really cool bird."  I called to my wife.  She slowly approached where I stood partially concealed by the trunk of another tree.

"It would sure help if you would tell me where it is." she whispered.

"It's right there in front of us!" I exclaimed. "See...on the horizontal branch right there."

"Oh my goodness! It's just like a bump on a log!" she announced, accurately describing it's camouflage and parallel-to-the-branch perching habit.

I think all goatsuckers (nightjars) are cool birds.  I've only seen Lesser Nighthawks and Common Nighthawks in my birding life so far.  I most often see them in flight, and the long wings with the white-wing patch makes them easy to identify.  Even their calls are pretty recognizable once you have heard them a time or two.  In my experience, Lesser Nighthawks seem to be a bit more solitary or paired while Common Nighthawks are often found in larger densities.  I've been fortunate enough to find a couple Nighthawk roosting areas and it seems you can find them on almost every branch of every tree!

These photos were taken of a couple of Common Nighthawks at Bruneau Sand Dunes State Park, not too far from Mountain Home, Idaho.  Its a great place to take kids to play on the dunes and it is a bit of an oasis in the desert for birds.

They have relatively large eyes and very small bill.  The bill has little whiskers all around it.  These are terrific bug-eatin' machines.

During mating season they will often fly up high then dive down at break-neck speeds, then suddenly pull out of the dive creating a booming whurr sound as the air rushes through their feathers.  I've had them do this right over my head before.  It is an awesome experience.

Just catching some zzz's.


  1. Wonderful post and great photos! I have only seen Common Nighthawks in flight. Very cool bird! Thanks for sharing.

  2. I absolutely love nighthawks and we have both kinds here, though more Lessers than Common. I think I may have discovered a nighthawk roosting area right here in Sycamore Canyon. I need to go back and explore further. I saw it from a neighbor's house one night.