Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sounds of Summer: Common Nighthawk

One of the sounds of summer evenings in southeast Louisiana is the call of the Common Nighthawk, a species that is likely to be heard whenever you are out enjoying a summer evening twilight, such as taking in a baseball game or walking from your car to a movie theater entrance.  The nighthawk is an odd-looking creature, about the size and shape of a tern (but not fond of water), with similarly long, pointed, crooked wings.  They are colored a camouflaged gray-brown, with distinctive white patches on the outer wing (visible from below).  A relative of the Whip-poor-will and Chuck-wills-widow.

Nighthawks call all summer, a distinctive nasal peent is easily recognized when learned.  Once they take to the sky at dusk, they may be up in the air for a long time, since they both forage (on flying bugs) and advertise territory on the wing.  In urban areas they nest on flat gravel rooftops, while along the marsh fringe they nest in barren situations such as scantily-vegetated mudflats.  The adults and nestlings are well camouflaged- here is a picture of two chicks I took out between Chef Pass and the Rigolets a couple years ago:

What, you say, where are they?  Look closely near the bottom, just right of center.  

I don't think I have ever been to an evening Zephyrs game without hearing a nighthawk from the stands. They have also been especially consistent around my house in the last week or so.   Keep your ears open this evening!  


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