Lesser Nighthawk

Range Map
Chordeiles acutipennis

The Lesser Nighthawk breeds in open country. We can find them from southwest United States through Central America to tropical South America. Those found in the USA mostly retreat from the United States and northern Mexico after breeding there. During the winter months, they stay in southern Mexico, Central America and tropical regions of South America.

Today’s scientific community recognises seven subspecies of Lesser Nighthawk:

  • C. a. texensis breeds from southwestern USA to northwestern Mexico. They spend winter from the southern part of the breeding range, south through Central America and northwestern Colombia.
  • C. a. micromeris lives in the northern Yucatan Peninsula.
  • C. a. littoralis lives in southern Mexico, south to Panama.
  • C. a. acutipennis lives in Trinidad, Tobago and across northern South America, east of the Andes, and south to Brazil.
  • C. a. crissalis lives in central Colombia.
  • C. a. aequatorialis lives in Colombia, and south to Ecuador.
  • C. a. exilis lives in western Peru.

While visiting the Salton Sea one summer night, I heard some intriguing nocturnal songs. I was not sure what birds I was hearing, nor was I certain the songs were from birds at all. The song sounded like an Eastern Screech Owl. But the phrasing was almost a minute long, seemingly without taking a breath, instead of the owl’s song of a few seconds. The Eastern Screech Owl would have been far beyond its native range. But when I listened to a recording of the Lesser Nighthawk, at last I knew I had found the author of this haunting call that pierced the night air.

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