Volunteers installing a nighthawk nest patch on the Concord Public Library, 2007, photo by Mark Suomala.
Project Nighthawk is a statewide research initiative, coordinated by New Hampshire Audubon, aimed at conserving a state-threatened bird species, the Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). Data from New Hampshire and the region show that nighthawks are declining throughout their range. Most active at dusk and dawn, the “peent” call of Common Nighthawks was once a familiar sound in cities and towns throughout New Hampshire, where they nested on flat, peastone gravel roofs and fed on insects attracted to city lights (everything from mosquitoes to large moths). In recent years, rubber and PVC have largely replaced peastone roofing, and nesting nighthawks have disappeared from many New Hampshire towns.
New Hampshire Audubon initiated Project Nighthawk in 2007 to investigate the potential for restoring nesting nighthawks in urban areas by placing simple gravel “nest patches” on flat rooftops in Keene and Concord. If the absence of nesting sites is a factor in nighthawk declines, biologists hope the gravel patches will lure the birds back. If not, then other factors such as pesticide use, accidental poisoning on their wintering grounds in South America, or migration hazards, may be contributing to their decline.
Project Leader: Rebecca Suomala