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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Common Nighthawk Migration Happening Now - Tips for Seeing Them!

Common Nighthawk, male. Males have a white throat, white subterminal primary bar on wings and a white band on the tail. 

Common Nighthawk, female. Females have a buffy throat, smaller white primary bar and no tail band.

Common Nighthawk, male

Common Nighthawk, female

Common Nighthawk, male

Common Nighthawk, male

Common Nighthawk migration is in full swing here in New England. Last night in NH we saw 301 from our deck. We have gotten good flights before, our previous high count has been 2,202 in one night. We live on a dammed-up section of a river, where the river flows north and nighthawks often follow river valleys on migration. We count from our deck and are often joined by our friends.

Common Nighthawk numbers have been declining in the Northeast so it was very exciting so see so many of them that night.

This is peak Common Nighthawk migration time, so get out and look. The best time to see them is at the end of the day from about 5 pm to dark.

Here are some tips for seeing migrating Common Nighthawks:

1. Look during the later afternoon to early evening hours, from about 4 pm to 7:30 pm.
2. Look north, as they generally move from north to south.
3. Get comfortable, use a chair if you can, you will be looking for quite a while. Tuck your elbows in, it is less tiring and steadier to hold binos that way.
4. Nighthawks often move along river corridors
5. Note if there is an ant hatch. Nighthawks are attracted to, and eat, dispersing ants who rise up in clouds.
6. Study the photos above, to learn nighthawk shape. Often you will only see distant birds with long pointed wings, flapping rather slowly. When feeding, nighthawks fly erratically. When migrating, they move more directly and may even rise up on a thermal sometimes.

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