Antillean Nighthawk

Chordeiles gundlachii

Mike Danzenbaker
  • CAPRIMULGIDAE
  • 200,000

Antillean Nighthawk is a Caribbean species only making it into the continental U.S. in the Florida Keys. Within this range, birds are often seen at dawn and dusk in groups, hawking for flying insects over open areas. They may be seen sitting on roads at night, first noticed by eyeshine.

Identification
Antillean Nighthawks are dark overall, hawk-like with slender, pointed wings that show a white wing patch. Best identified by its distinctive voice. Flight is erratic and swift.

Distribution and Population Trends
A breeding resident in the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Cuba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, and Hispaniola; a locally common breeding species on Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. This species is a rare migrant through the Lesser Antilles. In its Florida Keys range it is a summer resident from late April to September. Non-breeding range is unknown but thought to be in South America.

Ecology
This nightjar prefers open and semi-open areas, including pastures, fields, savannas, and pine barrens. Nests among leaves, sand, or gravel, in a scrape in the ground, laying one to two eggs. In Puerto Rico, the bird forages over shoreline, sugar-cane fields, pasture lands, and dry limestone and lower cordillera forest.

Threats
The species has declined in the Florida Keys due to habitat loss from land development. An aerial insectivore, it is potentially vulnerable to pesticides like those used regularly in the Florida Keys for mosquito control, but no data are available on effects to the species.

Conservation
Audubon of Florida acts as Trustee for the Florida Keys Environmental Restoration Trust Fund, an entity devoted to the restoration, enhancement and management of Florida Keys natural areas which provide habitat for Antillean Nighthawks. For a listing of the many restoration and enhancement projects undertaken through this fund see http://fl.audubon.org/PDFs/keysfund_intro.pdf.

What Can You Do?

Audubon's Important Bird Area program is a vital tool for the conservation of Antillean Nighthawks as well as other species. To learn more about the Important Bird Areas program and how you can help, visit: http://www.importantbirdareas.org.

Support groups working to preserve habitat for Antillean Nighthawks and other species in the Florida Keys. Contact Florida Audubon to find our more about how you can contribute at http://www.audubon.org/states/

Information on where Antillean Nighthawks occur and in what numbers is vital to conserving the species. Help in monitoring this and other species by reporting your sightings to eBird. A project of Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is the world's first comprehensive on-line bird monitoring program: http://www.ebird.org

Audubon is the U.S. representative of the global BirdLife International alliance. Our BirdLife partners in the Caribbean are developing Important Bird Areas programs to identify and conserve critical habitats that support birds and other wildlife. For more information about BirdLife IBA efforts throughout the Americas, visit http://www.birdlife.org.

Become a member of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. See http://www.scscb.org/.

References
Holyoak, D.T. 2001. Nightjars and Their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford, England.

Kaufman, Kenn. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Raffaele, Herbert, et.al. 1998. A Guide to the Birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.