Antillean nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii)


The Antillean nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii) is a nightjar. The adults are dark with brown, grey and white patterning on the upperparts and breast; the long wings are black and show a white bar in flight. The tail is dark with white barring; the underparts are white with black bars.

The adult male has a white throat; the female has a light brown throat. The most distinguishing characteristic to determine its identity from its closest relative the common nighthawk are the contrasting pale tertials near the back of the wings of a sitting bird. There are two color morphs, a gray and a rufous type. In the Bahamas this nighthawk will frequently climb with a distinctive cry up and up then fold in its wings and dive pulling out of the dive only a few feet from the ground creating a rush of air that is quite loud should you be close I have seen this in Abaco and in Freeport always over a piece of open ground.

Their breeding habitat is open country of the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas and the Florida Keys in the United States. They usually nest on bare ground, sometimes in raised locations including stumps or gravel roofs. They especially favor recently cleared areas in forests, airport fields, cane fields and pastures. The two eggs are laid directly on bare ground—there is no nest. Incubation is performed largely by the female and lasts for about 20 days. Young fledge at about 20 days of age.

The Antillean nighthawk migrates out of its breeding range after raising its young. It still remains unknown where the birds spend the winter. They catch flying insects on the wing, mainly foraging near dawn and dusk (crepuscular) or sometimes at night with a full moon. The call is a short pikadik usually heard overhead. The common nighthawk occasionally will make a similar call, but it is not as consistent.