Fall migration is underway and one species that might get overlooked is the Common Nighthawk. These nocturnal birds breed across most of the United States and the southern half of Canada, though in our area they are not that common. However, Sheryl Johnson, who runs the Nighthawk Watch at Haverford College, Haverford, Delaware County, has just contacted us to say that migration is underway and that the last couple of nights have been excellent, with counts of 718 and 177 respectively. I saw that Andy Fayer reported an amazing 1700 from the Militia Hill Hawk Watch site in Fort Washington, Montgomery County sunday evening.
Peak flight time, as they pass through the Delaware Valley, is usually between the last week of August and the first week of September. Sheryl will be counting nighthawks daily, weather permitting, between 6:30pm and 8:00pm, through Labor Day Sept 7th, and everyone is welcome to join her at the Haverford College Observatory Bleachers.
Being active at night, and very cryptic in coloration as they rest during daylight hours (above), the best time of observe Common Nighthawks is in the early evening hours during fall migration. They overwinter in South America and will not be back until late April. Nighthawks get their name from their habit of hunting insects at nightfall.