The Lesser Nighthawk or Common Nighthawk
I’m actually not sure which of the two Nighthawks on our Wetlands Park’s bird list sat for this photo! Based on the likelihood of which breed might be in our area, I’m thinking the Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis).
The Lesser Nighthawk is listed as common in summer in the Park, and is known to breed in southern Nevada. The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) is on the Park’s list as a rare migrant, and breeds in central and northern Nevada. The two birds can be difficult to tell apart when they are perched, as this one is.
Both Nighthawk species are active at dawn and dusk, flying overhead and scooping flying insects into their large mouths. Their bills are tiny, but their mouths are huge. They literally open their mouths and fly straight into the bugs with their mouths (and throats) wide open, and the bugs go right down the hatch!
Both species of Nighthawks winter in South America, and come to Nevada roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If anyone can identify this bird with more certainty, please drop us a line! -Chris Leavitt, President; photography by Philip Martini