- Common Name:
- Common Nighthawk
- Scientific Name:
- Chordeiles minor
- Length: 8.8 to 9.6 inches
- IUCN Red List Status:
- Least concern
- Current Population Trend:
This goatsucker performs flight displays and roosts conspicuously. Normally solitary, it sometimes forages or migrates in loose flocks. Polytypic. Length 8.8–9.6".
Varies geographically. Upperparts black to paler brownish gray; crown and upper back darkest; paler markings concentrated on upperwing coverts, scapulars, tertials. Underparts barred blackish brown and white or buff, chest and malar area darker, spotted with buff or dull white. Adult male: white throat patch, subterminal tail band, and primary patch about halfway between bend of wing and wing tip. Adult female: throat patch buffy, primary patch smaller, tail band reduced or lacking. Juvenile: generally paler, more uniform above with finer spotting and vermiculations.
Nine subspecies, 7 in North America. Eastern birds darkest, blackish above, less mottling on back; nominate minor (large), chapmani (smaller). Great Plains-Great Basin-Southwestern birds paler, grayer; henryi (medium size), howelli (large), sennetti (large), and aserriensis (small). Western hesperis relatively dark, grayer, large. Juvenile minor and chapmani blackish; sennetti palest; hesperis, howelli, aserriensis intermediate; henryi rusty.
Position of wing patch, lack of buff spotting on primaries, pointier wing, and darker underwing coverts eliminate lesser. Separation from Antillean problematic; best told by voice, but Antillean also usually smaller, shorter winged, and buffier on belly and undertail coverts.
Call: nasal peent by male in flight; multiple-syllable variation may suggest Antillean. Male courtship dive vibrates primaries, producing “boom.”
Status and Distribution
Common. Breeding: open habitats. Migration: in spring, arrives early April–mid-June, peak May, arrival later in North, West; departs late July–October, peak September, stragglers into November. Winter: South America; casual Gulf Coast. Vagrant: casual/accidental, mainly fall, Hawaii, northern Canada, and United Kingdom.
Some declines in parts of East.