Antillean Nighthawk

Chordeiles gundlachii

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 2002
  • Michael J. Guzy

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Figure 1. Breeding range of the Antillean Nighthawk.

Breeding range of the Antillean Nighthawk. Winter range unknown.

Antillean Nighthawk, adult (female?), Dry Tortugas, FL. March.

Antillean Nighthawk, adult (female?), Dry Tortugas, FL. March; photographer Brian E. Small

A familiar feature of summer evenings from the Greater Antilles and Bahamas to the Virgin Islands, the Antillean Nighthawk is often seen pursuing flying insects over open areas, towns, and beaches, using its voluminous mouth to scoop them from the air. This habit, along with its long, thin, pointed wings, has earned the species the local name "Mosquito Hawk" in many areas. Large feeding flocks of this nighthawk are sometimes observed on warm, cloudy days, after rain, and at dusk.

The Antillean Nighthawk is most easily distinguished from the Common Nighthawk, a species it closely resembles in plumage, by its calls. In the Florida Keys, both species have been reported nesting in the same areas, a result of changes in their distribution during the last half-century, probably owing to habitat alteration by humans-vegetation removed, creating open gravelly or sandy areas, which both species use for nesting. Only recently (1982) recognized as a species, the Antillean Nighthawk was formerly classified as a subspecies of the Common Nighthawk. Reports that the 2 forms were nesting in the same areas, along with noticeable differences in their vocalizations, prompted elevation of the Antillean Nighthawk to species status.

The biology of the Antillean Nighthawk is essentially unknown, including where the species spends the winter, most aspects of reproduction, and much of its behavior. Most of what is known (or suspected) about this bird has been inferred from studies of the Common Nighthawk (summarized in Poulin et al. 1996b), but given the known differences between these species, further work will no doubt reveal more dissimilarities. Other than descriptions of range and nesting records, only Stevenson et al. (Stevenson et al. 1983) have made the Antillean Nighthawk a focused subject of research to date.

Recommended Citation

Guzy, M. J. (2002). Antillean Nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.