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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.

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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.

Common Nighthawks travel here from Brazil and other South American countries, where they winter. They arrive with remarkable precision from these monumental journeys.

Their dark bodies are robin-sized, but they have much longer wings, like two dark boomerangs propelling their erratic flight. Watch for the Common Nighthawk overhead, just after sunset. Or better yet, listen for them. [Nighthawk “peeent”]

With luck, you may witness the male’s territorial display, as it dives sharply toward the earth only to pull up at the last second, while the air rushes through its wing feathers, creating a startling wallop of sound. [Male’s booming sound]

Come to for more about the Common Nighthawk. [Male’s booming sound]

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Call of the Common Nighthawk "websounds" recorded by R. Righter; booming sound recorded by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2015 Tune In to  August 2015  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID # 062905CONI CONI-01b

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