Lesser NighthawkChordeiles acutipennis

adult male
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult female
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult male
Bob Steele/VIREO
Lesser Nighthawk



8-9" (20-23 cm). Similar to Common Nighthawk but smaller, with white wing patch (buff in female) nearer tip of wing (visible in flight). Both sexes have buffy cast to underparts. Male's throat white; female's buffy. Whereas Common Nighthawk hunts and calls from high up, Lesser Nighthawk flies low and utters no loud aerial calls.


A soft, sustained, tremolo whirring; very difficult to locate.




Open dry scrublands; desert valleys; prairies and pastures.


Breeds from central California, Arizona, and parts of Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas southward. Winters in tropics.


The Lesser is more nocturnal than the Common Nighthawk and hunts its insect prey by flying low above the canopy of trees or the brush and grass of open plains. During courtship flight display, the male pursues the female close to the ground, flashing his white throat as he calls.


2 spotted, light gray eggs on open ground.

Similar Species



12" (30 cm). Pigeon-sized. Larger than the Whip-poor-will. Buff-brown body, brown chin.


Buff-collared Nightjar

9" (23 cm). Mottled gray-brown with buff collar. Male has white patches at corners of tail.


Eastern Whip-poor-will

10" (25 cm). Robin-sized. A leaf-brown, strictly nocturnal bird with black throat. Male has broad white tips on outer tail feathers, visible in flight. Female has all-brown tail.

adult male

Antillean Nighthawk

9 1/2" (24 cm). A jay-sized bird, mottled grayish-black. Long slightly notched tail and long pointed wings with broad white wing bar. Similar to Common Nighthawk, but slightly smaller and paler.

adult male Western

Common Nighthawk

10" (25 cm). A jay-sized bird, mottled brownish-black above and below, perfectly matching the ground. Long notched or square-tipped tail and long pointed wings with broad white wing bar.

adult (gray morph) more common in US

Common Pauraque

12" (30 cm). Larger than the Whip-poor-will. Mottled brown. Brown body; wings and tail show white bands in flight, especially conspicuous in male. Identified mainly by voice.


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