The exquisite young Nighthawk was seen quietly resting on a branch at mid-day. Nearly motionless and perfectly camouflaged in plumage that mirrors tree bark, the Nighthawk was easy to lose sight of even when staring directly at it. These ephemeral beauties are well-camouflaged at all stages of development, in fact the hatchlings are so well disguised that the parents don’t bother to build a nest; the female lays her eggs directly on the ground.
The name Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is confusing as they are neither strictly nocturnal nor related to hawks. Nighthawks are crepuscular, meaning they typically hunt during the low light hours of early morning and early evening. The Nighthawk’s diet consists entirely of insects. As insect populations are declining, so too are the Nighthawks.
These sublime creatures formerly nested in Massachusetts. It’s been a number of decades since a breeding pair was last seen in our state. They are long distance migrators and there is much still to understand why they are disappearing. Loss of food, loss of habitat, and pesticide use surely are at the top of the list.
I was awe struck by how sweetly peaceful the bird appeared, with its teeny beak and only occasionally opening its large black eyes, sleeping the day away in preparation for an evening hunt. I wondered, though, is this the last time I will ever see a Nighthawk?
Watch this very cool map of the the migratory route of the Common Nighthawk