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Nighthawks v Nightjars (1 Viewer)

birdmeister

Well-known member
United States
Thanks for the response Ken and John, just a brief brush-up with the terminology for a minute.|=)|


I'd forgotten about the whole Central Park scene, didn't realize a Chuck has been there (should have figured!). I imagine they fly at moderate height, but I guess it's hard to tell for sure.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Fascinating discussion!

I've seen actively migrating nighthawks associated with nocturnal movement twice over my yard. Most observations are of birds that are migrating in late afternoon, casually flapping towards their destination while stopping to catch insects at times. One morning last fall, I picked out a bird not long after sunrise that was ridiculously high, too far for the naked eye! Surely a bird that was migrating all night. Then this spring, I observed multiple nighthawks at similar altitude a little before sunset. They were pushed along by a strong SW wind and again were incredibly high!

Point being, nighthawks undoubtedly reach respectable heights during nocturnal migration. I'd be fascinated to know how high Whippoorwills and (European) Nightjars fly during nocturnal migration. Surely lower???

The one I saw come in off the sea was at wavetop height. But that was daylight, so there may have been intent to sneak through low down and unseen by any passing falcons. It was moving at some considerable speed, as well: watching them floating about lowland heath churring doesn't give a real impression of their flight capabilities.

John
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Another difference, as far as I'm aware:

Nighthawks are frequently urban birds, and will often nest on flat rooftops (I think? Is that correct?)

Nightjars - in UK at least - very strictly avoid human habitation, only occurring on wilder heathlands and conifer plantation clearfell sites.
 

KenM

Well-known member
The one I saw come in off the sea was at wavetop height. But that was daylight, so there may have been intent to sneak through low down and unseen by any passing falcons. It was moving at some considerable speed, as well: watching them floating about lowland heath churring doesn't give a real impression of their flight capabilities.

John

.....mmm so there's at least two gears in the gearbox. :t:
 

jurek

Well-known member
European Nightjars and many other nightjars, hunt from a low branch or from the ground most of the time. They take off like flycatchers and land back. You see it during spotlighting.

Nocturnal they are, but now, during the longest midsummer days, European Nightjars are active well before it is dark. As many other nocturnal animals, out of necessity.

Nighthawks are better flyers, so probably less afraid of birds of prey and more keen to hunt over open water.
 

johnallcock

Well-known member
Maybe it is more appropriate to think of the old-world ecological equivalent of nighthawks not as nightjars, but pratincoles: similar size, aerial hunters, flocking, most active at dawn/dusk but also active during daylight hours. This could be considered a case of convergent evolution with unrelated species filling similar niches.


Another difference, as far as I'm aware:

Nighthawks are frequently urban birds, and will often nest on flat rooftops (I think? Is that correct?)

Nightjars - in UK at least - very strictly avoid human habitation, only occurring on wilder heathlands and conifer plantation clearfell sites.

This may be true of European Nightjar, but Savanna Nightjar is commonly an urban species, and will nest on rooftops. This may also be true of other nightjar species elsewhere in the world.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
Maybe it is more appropriate to think of the old-world ecological equivalent of nighthawks not as nightjars, but pratincoles: similar size, aerial hunters, flocking, most active at dawn/dusk but also active during daylight hours. This could be considered a case of convergent evolution with unrelated species filling similar niches.
Good call, hadn't thought of it, but sounds right :t:
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
Yes John, I used Com.Nighthawk as a comparative because of it’s Wintering range perhaps more comparable to European Nightjar ie similar distances travelled between Breeding/Wintering areas as compared to the other NA Goatsuckers.
Quite right regarding the NA Caprimulgus being more nocturnal like EN. Interestingly of the other four species of NA Caps., which overwinter in California/West and SE.Texas and Florida, which would put them on the same latitude as the Canaries, whereas EN would be Wintering much further South.

Cheers

Although technically, we don't really have any native new world Caprimulgus anymore, as they have all been moved to new genera, with the whole genus kind of a wastebin taxonomic bin until recently.
 

KenM

Well-known member
Although technically, we don't really have any native new world Caprimulgus anymore, as they have all been moved to new genera, with the whole genus kind of a wastebin taxonomic bin until recently.

I hadn’t realised until I started the thread, that Nighthawks were allied but separated from the Caps. taxonomically speaking. Also bearing in mind that my one and only Nighthawk sighting (last year US), was of a bird that was much more dynamic imo than Old World equivalents, indeed so dashing in flight (on such a brief view) it left me wanting a lot more.

Presumably the flight actions and movement of the Nighthawks originally contributed somewhat to their perceived taxonomic difference, which has since been changed...to the same family group as the Caprimulgidae?

Cheers
 
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