Print

Print


Below, I am posting an e-mail to me from Janet Ng, a graduate student, who 
is studying Common Nighthawks. I had queried her about the winter ranges of 
nighthawks and the likelihood that they might show up in Missouri in March. 
Her answer is very diplomatic. It i also informative, especially about how 
much is NOT known about Common Nighthawks.

Hi Bob,
 Great to have birding eyes and ears out there!  The winter range of any 
nightjar (Poorwills, whip-poor-wills, nighthawks) has always been an iffy 
thing.  There is astounding diversity of this extremely well camouflaged 
bird family in the tropics, making detection and IDENTIFICATION nearly 
impossible down there.  They all look the same!  If you can find them!


So, what I'm trying to say is that, yes the winter range for our North 
American nighthawks range from Central to South America, down to Brazil and 
maybe Argentina, but not much else is known about their winter range.  It is 
likely that they inhabit open grassland-type landscapes, much like our 
prairie birds.  However, common nighthawks still range as far up as the 
Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, where they take advantage of 
small open areas in the boreal forest.  So, it is just as possible that 
nighthawks also winter in forested areas in South America.  No one knows! 
They are a tough species to keep track of.

 As you already know, nighthawks are late migrators.  They get in late and 
they leave early!  They reach my neck of the woods the last week of May, so 
it makes sense they would be in Missouri mid-May.  March does seem rather 
early, I'd agree with you on that.  Misidentification is always possible, 
but even beginner birder's can see the white wing bands on nighthawks, so 
that's a tough call too.  Here's a question: are there already flying 
insects out in Missouri right now?  Nighthawks are dependent on flying 
insects like moths, midges, and caddisflies for food, so if it is still too 
cold for these insects to be out, nighthawks aren't likely to be around 
either.  It is also two months earlier, not just a few weeks, than the usual 
arrival of these nighthawks, so in my opinion, it's probably too early to be 
nighthawks.  As I say this, I'm sure that a nighthawk has taken the 
opportunity to land on your porch.  J

 So, I guess you've already concluded that not much is known about 
nighthawks, and many aspects of their natural history including their winter 
ecology is a lot of speculation.  Unfortunately, this species has been 
steadily declining since the 1960's, and with such little ecological 
knowledge about them, it is difficult to determine reasons behind their 
decline and properly manage their populations.  My work focuses on their 
habitat selection in the Canadian prairies and I hope to characterize some 
of their habitat requirements so that we better understand if habitat loss 
is behind their decline.

 Thanks very much for your interest, I hope I've answered your questions.

 Cheers,

Janet Ng

Bob Fisher
Independence, Missouri
[log in to unmask] 

__________________________________________________
###########################################################
*              Audubon Society of Missouri's              *
*                Wild Bird Discussion Forum               *
*---------------------------------------------------------*
* To subscribe or unsubscribe, click here:                *
* https://po.missouri.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=mobirds-l&A=1 *
*---------------------------------------------------------*
* To access the list archives, click here:                *
* http://po.missouri.edu/archives/mobirds-l.html          *
*                                                         *
* To access the Audubon Society of Missouri Web           *
* Site:  http://mobirds.org                               *
###########################################################