Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)



  • BC: Blue – S3S5B (2022)
  • COSEWIC: Special Concern
  • SARA: Threatened (2010)
  • Global: Secure (2016)
  • Galiano Island Status: Confirmed


The common nighthawk is a medium-sized bird with long, narrow, pointed wings, and a long tail that is slightly notched. The call, a short, raucous, and nasal “peet,” is quite distinctive. The head is large and flattened, the eyes are large, the bill is small, and the mouth is large. The plumage is dark brown with black, white, and buff specks. In flight, a wide white stripe can be seen across the long feathers that edge the wings.


The common nighthawk nests in a wide range of open, vegetation-free habitats, including dunes, beaches, recently harvested forests, burnt-over areas, logged areas, rocky outcrops, rocky barrens, grasslands, pastures, peat bogs, marshes, lakeshores, and river banks. This species also inhabits mixed and coniferous forests.


The common nighthawk nests in almost all of North America, in some parts of Central America, and possibly also in southeastern Columbia. In Canada, this species occurs in all of the provinces and territories, with the exception of Nunavut. The common nighthawk winters throughout South America, primarily in Eastern Peru and Ecuador, and Southern Brazil.


Given the widespread declines observed among other insectivorous bird species, it is assumed that the reduced availability of food sources caused by the extensive use of pesticides is a contributing factor to this birds decline. Other factors that may have contributed to the declines observed in certain regions include habitat loss and modification, particularly the reforestation of abandoned agricultural fields and harvested forests; fire-fighting efforts; intensive agriculture; and the gradual reduction of the number of buildings with flat gravelled roofs in urban areas. The increased predator population (specifically, domestic cats, striped skunks, raccoons, American crows, and common ravens) may contribute to this species’ decline, particularly in urban areas. Other possible factors include collisions with motor vehicles and climate change.

Galiano Status

A migratory population is established on Galiano Island.

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