Nighthawk

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For other uses, see Nighthawk (disambiguation).
Nighthawk
Chordeiles minorEJN31CB.jpg
Common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae
Subfamily: Chordeilinae
Genera

A nighthawk is a nocturnal bird of the subfamily Chordeilinae, within the nightjar family, Caprimulgidae. The term "nighthawk", first recorded in the King James Version of 1611, was originally a local name in England for the European nightjar. Its use in the Americas refers to members of the genus Chordeiles and related genera was first recorded in 1778.[1]

Nighthawks are medium-sized birds with long wings, short legs, and very short bills. They usually nest on the ground. They feed on flying insects. The least nighthawk, at 16 centimetres (6.3 in) and 23 grams (0.81 oz), is the smallest of all Caprimulgiformes. Nightjars are sometimes referred to as goatsuckers from the mistaken belief that they suck milk from goats (the Latin for goatsucker is Caprimulgus).

Nighthawks have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is cryptically coloured to resemble bark or leaves. Some species perch facing along a branch, rather than across it as birds usually do. This helps to conceal them during the day. The female lays two patterned eggs directly onto bare ground.

They are mostly active in the late evening and early morning or at night and feed on moths and other large flying insects. The bill opens very wide and has a slightly hooked upper tip.

Nighthawks are similar in most respects to the nightjars, but have shorter bills and plumage that is less soft. Nighthawks are less strictly nocturnal than many nightjars and may be seen hunting when there is still light in the sky.

Species[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Nighthawk". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)