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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Common Nighthawk -- Chordeiles minor

RANGE: Breeds from southern Yukon and southern Mackenzie to central Quebec and southern Labrador, south to southern California, southern Nevada, southern Arizona, Texas, the Gulf Coast, Florida, Mexico, and Central America. Winters in South America.

STATUS: Common; population is declining in some regions.

HABITAT: Inhabits varied habitats throughout most of North America. Prefers open habitats such as grasslands, sparse woods, or towns and cities. Also inhabits areas with plowed fields, and gravel beaches, as well as railroad right-of-ways and barren areas with rocky soils.

NEST: Lays eggs on flat substrates such as gravelly ground, burned-over areas, gravel and asphalt rooftops, dry barren plains, bare rock, and partially vegetated soil, but always in the open.

FOOD: Mainly crepuscular and nocturnal; sweeps flying insects, from tiny gnats to large moths, out of the air. Eats large quantities of mosquitoes and flying ants as well as beetles, plant lice, grasshoppers, locusts, horseflies, and other insects.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Tate and Tate 1982, Terres 1980.

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