On November 21, 1993, (i.e. ten days later than the latest record for Common Nighthawk in R & E) I saw a nighthawk fly across I-435 near Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, Missouri. Entirely, independently of me, Don Arni also reported seeing a nighthawk (perhaps the same bird) at another Kansas City location on the same day. These records occurred after publication of the Robbins & Easterla book. Both were fly bys, and neither of us could rule out Lesser Nighthawk.

Indeed, the later it gets, the more likely it is that a nighthawk in Missouri will be a Lesser Nighthawk. Common Nighthawks winter in South America, whereas Lessers arrive earlier in spring and just retreat southward in Mexico from the northern part of their range in winter. Individual Lesser Nighthawks have been known to overwinter in the United States. If the Southwestern subspecies of Cave Swallow regularly strays northeastward as far as New England in November, why not also an occasional Lesser Nighthawk?

I'll answer my own question. Lesser Nighthawk is nearly impossible to separate from Common Nighthawk on the wing. If late nighthawks are lessers, they are not making it into the record books because nobody can identify them with sufficient certainty.

If I were on the MBRC, I would list any sight record of a nighthawk  after mid-October (perhaps earlier) as "Nighthawk sp.?"

Bob Fisher
Independence, MO
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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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