News & Events

Nighthawk Nests Confirmed in NH

Nighthawk nesting season is in full swing, and it appears to be a good year! Most years I am reporting a decline in our Common Nighthawks but this year is holding steady or even increasing in some areas. Despite COVID-19, volunteers and staff have been able to do some watching.
I am excited to report that the folks in Keene have confirmed a nest with one chick that is now old enough to fly on its own, although the parents continue to feed it. Brett Thelen of the Harris Center leads the effort in Keene and they have been following the chick’s progress. No other nighthawks have been found in Keene so far this year.

Two Common Nighthawk chicks about seven days old in the greater Concord area, 7-3-20 by Rebecca Suomala.

In the Concord area, we have four confirmed nests – the most in many years. Most nests we confirm by the behavior of the adults, but we did find one nest with two chicks (photo above) and the female did a distraction display to lure us away. The mall location has two males that are both very active. We suspect two nests, but have only been able to confirm one so far. Nighthawks are crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk. We usually watch at dusk and activity typically starts around 8:00 pm and stops by 9:30. This year the males have been arriving late and going until at least 10:00 pm making for late nights for the watchers. Why is this year different? I have no idea!
The Ossipee Pine Barrens area is a hot bed of activity this summer, even more than usual. A few of us watched on June 21 and tallied a total of 13 males and 2-3 females. There were 5 males and at least one female at one site! The Nature Conservancy did some management at this site recently which also improved the habitat for nighthawks. The birds appear to have noticed. The pine barrens is the only natural area with a strong population of Common Nighthawks in the state.
Nighthawk males display over a potential nest site with a fluttery flight, loud peents, and regular dives which result in a whooshing noise called a boom (you can hear booms near the 11 and 27 second marks in the video). One Concord site had a male displaying loudly and persistently. Check this video to hear it (note that it’s dark so you can’t see the bird).
by Becky Suomala, Project Nighthawk Coordinator