Posted by: atowhee | June 7, 2018


There are members of the nightjar family distributed widely across the sub-arctic parts of the world–lots of insects being a requirement for their chosen lifestyle.  When I plan spring trips to Malheur I want them to coincide with the return of these migrants from the tropics.  To see their buoyant flight, their aerial antics and dives, hear their warning “peeent” calls, then to find them perched on fence rails, posts, roofs, rocks…all that makes any Malheur June trip a well-timed event. By July they are almost invisible except at dawn or dusk, having moved into their nesting phase and rebuilt their body weight from the rigors of migration.  Upon first arrival they sometimes feed in mid-day sun, belying their nighthawk status.  Next year Oregon State University Press will publish a book of essays on Malheur.  I was honored to contribute my humble piece on the uncommon Common Nighthawk.  Herewith a few of my treasured images from our recent KBO trip:cni frontThese two close-ups of a sleeping, relaxed bird show now tiny the beak is in comparison to the broad mouth.  THey fly open-mouthed through the air trapping insects in their mouth and then when they have a full serving, swallow, then repeat…the beak is a mere frontal addition, suited for mild preening.  Not a weapon or a feeding tool as with many birds…compare with crane or heron or woodpecker or Osprey…note how the mouth extends all the way back to the front of the front of the big eye (needed for night work).cni frrot2CN AT DAWNCN IN AIRI watched this guy fly (above) , then circle, fold his wings and settle down onto the cables.  Their feet an tiny and not suited for perching, only preening.CN ON WIREcn-bensonCNI-Acni-bcni-cMany of these images come from Crystal Crane Hot Springs where, at dawn, the nighthawks decorate the rail fences at this time of year.cni-dcni-ecni-loggd

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