Something just whizzed by the house! It was a bird, but went by so quickly that I barely got a look.
There it is again ... long, narrow wings, relatively long tail. Gone again ... there's another one. It zips by the big cottonwood, then down toward the house ... up and over with barely an inch to spare. But I got another quick look. White stripes on the underside of the wing and a white chin. I know these birds! They're common nighthawks!
Well, they are rather hawk-shaped but their foraging techniques are more like bats!
Twist and turn, dive and quickly turn back up.
Years ago, I had the opportunity to watch these birds at our fishing camp near Gunnison. In the evening, they would forage up and down the Gunnison River. The lights from the various camp sites attracted insects and the birds would zero in on them.
The white chin and wing bars on the underside of the wing are diagnostic and one can quickly identify them. They forage on insects at dusk and often feed at night, sleeping during the day. Most birds perch horizontally on a branch but the nighthawk sits sideways. Although they do not build a nest as such, they may lay eggs on a barren stump, an old robin's nest or on gravel roofs! These birds became common in cities after the introduction of gravel roofs in the 1800s.
They range from most of Canada all the way into Mexico, and so there are several color variations. During courtship, the male dives down at the female, and closes his wings at the last moment to make a boom like a bull might make. This sound plus the bat-like foraging have resulted in the colloquial name of "bull bat." Of course this bird does look hawk-like even though it's only about robin-sized, or 10 inches. But the scientific label is more pleasing to me. Chordeiles minor translates as "dancing in the evening."
I check out the south window and my nighthawks are zipping over the alfalfa field. An extra plus to my evening.blog comments powered by Disqus