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Common Nighthawk - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Stanley Jones
Blinn College, Bryan, Brazos County, Texas, USA, 4 June 2021
Chordeiles minor


Photo © by Mross
North central Montana, USA, 5 July 2019

22–25 cm (8¾-9¾ in)
At rest, wingtips are usually longer than the tail; the tips are pointed, with outermost primary longer than the rest. In flight, the flight feathers are blackish-brown, with a white bar across the outer five primaries, narrower in female than male; at rest, if the band is visible, it will be staggered, even toothed, and at the same length as tertial tips. A white crescent on the throat is wider an whiter in male compared to female, and the female is lacking a white subterminal bar on the tail. Both sexes are mostly cryptic with black, pale gray, and buffish to cinnamon on upperside, but pale gray to grayish-buff on underside.

Females are grey, though occasionally a rufous form is found.

Similar Species

Common Nighthawk is very similar to Antillean Nighthawk; a thread discussing the differences is found under References[3].


North, Central and South America

All subspecies are migrants wintering (as far as this is known) in South America. For example, birds from Alberta, Canada migrated through the Caribbean to Amazonian and Cerrado areas in Brazil.


Until recently this species was considered conspecific with Antillean Nighthawk.


There are 9 subspecies[1]:

  • C. m. minor:
  • Central and southern Canada to northern and north-eastern US; winters to northern Argentina
  • C. m. hesperis:
  • South-western Canada and western US; winters northern South America
  • C. m. sennetti:
  • South-central Canada and north-central US ; winters to South America
  • C. m. howelli:
  • West-central and south-central US; winters to South America
  • C. m. henryi:
  • C. m. aserriensis:
  • South-central US to extreme northern Mexico (northern Tamaulipas)
  • C. m. chapmani:
  • South-eastern US; winters to Argentina
  • C. m. neotropicalis:
  • Breeds eastern and southern Mexico (Tamaulipas south to central Guerrero and to Chiapas); winter range undocumented, presumably Amazonia
  • C. m. panamensis:

Three additional subspecies divisus, twomeyi and neotropicalis are not generally recognised[2].


Open woodlands, suburbs, towns, with nests sometimes on flat, gravel-covered roofs.


More likely to be seen in daylight than most other nightjars.


The 2 eggs are laid directly on bare ground and are incubated by the female for about 20 days. The young fledge at about 20 days.


Their diet consists mostly of insects such as moths, bugs, wasps, flies, mosquitoes, mayflies, caddisflies, gnats, flying ants, plant lice, grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, which they catch in flight.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Lepage D. (2021) [Avibase - https://avibase.ca/24E39ACD ]. Retrieved 18 June 2021
  3. This is a thread discussing the difference between Antillean and Common Nighthawk
  4. A Paper discussing tracking migrating nighthawks from Alberta
  5. Cleere, N. (2019). Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/55166 on 31 July 2019).

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