The Lesser Nighthawk, also known as Chordeiles acutipennis, is a small, migratory bird found in North and South America. These birds are primarily nocturnal and are active during twilight hours. During the day, they are inactive and usually sit still, either on the ground or on a low branch, blending in well with the environment around them due to their brown and gray coloration.
Lesser Nighthawks are about 8 to 10 inches long with a wingspan of 21 to 24 inches. They have black, pointed wings and a short, black bill. They are known for their bright white throat and three white stripes that run through their face, adding to their distinctive appearance. The male Lesser Nighthawk has a white patch on its primaries, which can be seen when flying.
These birds are found in various habitats, including open woodlands, desert grasslands, prairies, and sagebrush. They can also be found in urban areas and near agricultural fields. During their breeding season from early May to mid-September, they prefer habitats that have flat, open areas near rivers and ponds, where they build their nests.
Lesser Nighthawks feed on flying insects, such as moths, mosquitoes, and beetles. They catch their prey while in flight, using their wide mouths and strong, agile wings to fly after and catch their prey. Interestingly, these birds are known to carry insects in their mouths while flying, using them to feed their young.
During courtship, male Lesser Nighthawks establish territories and perform aerial displays to attract a female mate. The female then lays 1 to 2 eggs on the ground, which they incubate for about three weeks. After hatching, the chicks are left alone on the ground to fend for themselves, relying on their cryptic coloration to avoid predators. The parents will continue to feed and protect the chicks until they become independent.
In conclusion, the Lesser Nighthawk is a unique and fascinating bird, known for its distinctive appearance and lifestyle. These birds play a crucial role in the ecosystem by controlling insect populations and can be seen as a valuable asset to any ecosystem that they inhabit.