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Lesser Nighthawk - BirdForum Opus

Photo by Richard Bledsoe
Salton Sea area, California, USA, March 2004
Chordeiles acutipennis


Resembles Common Nighthawk but with shorter tail, shorter, rounder wings, and the wing bar across the primaries is closer to the wing-tips (weaker in female and juveniles, absent in a juvenile female). Underside is paler and more uniform than the Common Nighthawk. In addition, notice buffy spots in primaries and pale spotting in the wing coverts and scapulars.


From southwest USA to northern Chile in South America.


Seven subspecies where at least the northernmost ones are known to be migratory. Some northward migration in southern winter seems likely.


In the USA mainly limited to dry open or brush country, but from Mexico and further south found in more varied habitats, including roosting in mangrove and trees in swampy areas. In South America also found in semi-open wooded areas. Found in lowland to foothills.


Diet includes insects which are caught in the air. Less vocal than Common Nighthawk, with a quite different voice.

Lesser Nighthawk has experimentally been induced into torpor (close to hibernation) by low temperatures combined with food restriction, however, it does not seem to enter this stage as easily as the Common Poorwill.


  1. Clements, James F. 2007. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to October 2007. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 9780801445019
  2. Restall et al. 2006. Birds of Northern South America. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300124156
  3. Howell & Webb, 1995. A guide to the birds of Mexico and northern Central America. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198540124
  4. Ridgely & Gwynne 1989. Birds of Panama. Princeton Paperbacks. ISBN 0691025126
  5. Birdforum thread discussing id of Lesser vs Common Nighthawk

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