Mostly active at dusk and dawn, the Common Nighthawk is an aerial insectivore that can be found in urban and rural areas throughout the United States and Canada (except for southwestern United States and Newfoundland), from the northern limit of the forest, down through central Mexico and as far south as Panama and possibly Colombia.
This species nests on the ground, but also on flat gravel rooftops. The breeding habitat of this species consists of a wide variety of open areas: open forests (including logged and burnt areas), woodland clearings, prairies and plains, beaches, etc. It is considering an opportunistic generalist. The Common Nighthawk is a long distance migrant. Its wintering distribution is poorly documented, but includes the lowlands of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile.
The use of non-selective pesticides is suspected to be the main cause of decline of Common Nighthawk by reducing the abundance of insects they feed on. The adoption of new rooftop construction practices (replacement of gravel by smooth, unicolor rubber materials) may reduce the availability of nesting sites in urban areas and they are also vulnerable to collisions with vehicles while roosting or feeding at low altitude. Overall, this species has declined by 58% since 1970.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Generalist, Agricultural
Wintering: Generalist, Agricultural
Breeding: Urbanization, Climate change, Agricultural conversion, Contaminants
Wintering: Urbanization, Climate change, Agricultural conversion, Contaminants
Population Loss Since 1970: -58%
Urgency/Half Life: N/A
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2019-1 – Least Concern
U.S. Conservation Status:
Canadian Conservation Status: Special Concern (COSEWIC), Threatened (SARA)
Birds of Conservation Concern: USFWS – Bird of Conservation Concern
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half Life|
|Oaks and Prairies Joint Venture||7%||-76%||22 years|
|Gulf Coast Joint Venture||5%||-76%||***|
|Intermountains West Joint Venture||26%||-66%||***|
|Northern Great Plains Joint Venture||5%||-47%||***|
|Playa Lakes Joint Venture||25%||2%||***|
|Rio Grande Joint Venture||9%||-42%||***|
*** indicates insufficient or unreliable data to calculate a regional long-term change or half-life estimate.
Project Nighthawk (New Hampshire)
Species Conservation Plans:
2018 COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) in Canada
Recovery Strategy for the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor) in Canada (2016)
Common Nighthawk – Habitat conservation Strategy (Conservation strategy)
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
Ng, J.W., E.C. Knight, A.L. Scarpignato, A.-L. Harrison, E.M. Bayne, and P.P. Marra.
2017. First full annual cycle tracking of a declining aerial insectivorous bird, the
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), identifies migration routes, non-breeding
habitat, and breeding site fidelity. Canadian Journal of Zoology.