Monthly Archives: December 2012

Spotlight On Ohio Birds

Common Nighthawk (Choroeiles minor)

Family: Caprimulgidae

Order: Caprimulgiformes

Description: 10″ (25cm) ADULT MALE Has blackish brown plumage overall. Upperparts are finely marked with fine black and whitish lines (looks like tree bark); throat is white and underparts have dark brown barring on pale background. Note white band across primaries in resting birds and in flight. Tail has white subterminal band, only obvious in flight. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but throat patch is buff, wing patch is less striking and white tail band is typically absent. JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Voice: Common Nighthawks give a nasal peent or beer call while flying. When defending a nest, the female gives a hissing or throaty cluck. Courting males give a croaking auk auk auk call.

Habitat:Common Nighthawks nest in both rural and urban habitats including coastal sand dunes and beaches, logged forest, recently burned forest, woodland clearings, prairies, plains, sagebrush, grasslands, open forests, and rock outcrops. They also nest on flat gravel rooftops, though less often as gravel roofs are being replaced by smooth, rubberized roofs that provide an unsuitable surface. During migration, Common Nighthawks stop in farmlands, river valleys, marshes, coastal dunes, and open woodlands. Their South American wintering habitat is not well known.

Nesting: 2 creamy white to pale olive gray eggs heavily speckled with brown, black and gray. Common Nighthawks lay eggs directly on the ground, which may consist of gravel, sand, bare rock, wood chips, leaves, needles, slag, tar paper, cinders, or living vegetation, such as moss, dandelion rosettes, and lichens. The female probably selects the nest site, usually on unsheltered ground, gravel beaches, rocky outcrops, and open forest floors. Nests are typically out in the open, but may also be near logs, boulders, grass clumps, shrubs, or debris. In cities, Common Nighthawks nest on flat gravel roofs.




  • On summer evenings, keep an eye and an ear out for the male Common Nighthawk’s dramatic “booming” display flight. Flying at a height slightly above the treetops, he abruptly dives for the ground. As he peels out of his dive (sometimes just a few meters from the ground) he flexes his wings downward, and the air rushing across his wingtips makes a deep booming or whooshing sound, as if a racecar has just passed by. The dives may be directed at females, territorial intruders, and even people.
  • The Common Nighthawk’s impressive booming sounds during courtship dives, in combination with its erratic, bat-like flight, have earned it the colloquial name of “bullbat.” The name “nighthawk” itself is a bit of a misnomer, since the bird is neither strictly nocturnal—it’s active at dawn and dusk—nor closely related to hawks.
  • Many Late Pleistocene fossils of Common Nighthawks, up to about 400,000 years old, have been unearthed between Virginia and California and from Wyoming to Texas.
  • Common Nighthawks, which have one of the longest migration routes of all North American birds, sometimes show up far out of range. They have been recorded in Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, and multiple times on the British Isles.
  • The oldest Common Nighthawk on record was 10 years old.

Resource material provided by:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology/

Winter Guests

With the addition of some beautiful overnight snow, my backyard feeders have been particularly busy with all sorts of birds. The Northern Cardinals which prefer either feeding on the ground or platform feeders will perch in a nearby bush before flying onto the ground or the feeder to pick at the food. So I set my  digiscoping rig this afternoon and focused on the bush they perched in. Some of my favorite photographs are of Northern Cardinals with a snowy background.

IMG_2184 IMG_2187

Rare Bird Alert/ # 327

For the past several days, starting on the 26th, a Rufous Hummingbird has been visiting the feeder of area birder Bill Stanley, which is located just outside of Williamsburg Ohio. At first this sighting peaked my interest, but when it showed up yesterday I started to get that twitch again. So this morning after I got home from physical therapy for my knee, I looked up his number in the Cincinnatibirds directory and gave him a call. Speaking with his wife she informed me that indeed the Hummer was still feeding this morning. Asking if it would be alright if I paid their feeder a visit, she informed me that it would be fine.

So why would a Rufous Hummingbird be hangin’ around this part of Ohio in late December? There are any number of reasons for this to be happening. As anyone who feeds birds, especially Hummingbirds know that you should keep your feeders up as long as possible so any migrating Hummingbirds can stop an refuel while on their long journey. Is this an unusual sighting? You bet it is, but we’re seeing more and more of this every year. Just 2 days ago a Rufous was sighted in Ottawa County on Lake Erie. So what’s the fate of this small bird? I hope it leaves and lives a long healthy life. But Mother Nature has a way of handling things and I can only hope for the best.

When I arrived at the Stanley residence Bill welcomed me and we talked about the best way to view the bird. Not wanting to impose I made sure I stayed outside and relatively close to the feeder. As Bill and myself were talking I noticed the Hummer fly by in a patch of tall vegetation 20 feet from the front of the house. After this I found a patio chair and started the waiting game.

It was cold and the breeze started to pick up a little when I knocked on Bill’s door to inform him that I was going to sit my car in a different location so I could have a better view of the feeders, and also to get out of sight so the other birds as well as the Hummer wouldn’t feel threatened. It was 10 minutes later when it showed up and started to feed.

IMG_3678I didn’t take my digiscoping rig thinking that my other Canon camera would be OK. They might not be the best pictures, but I’m happy.


I continued to watch the Rufous Hummingbird for 20 minutes as it flew back and forth between the feeders and some of the nearby trees. It was while it was perched in a tree that I was able to get real good views and make out it’s rufous coloration on it’s flanks. A bird bander was out there either yesterday or the day before trying to get a band on it, but he missed so we won’t know the sex or age. Either way it was a good time with one more bird to the old life list.

New Plates

IMG_2161The finishing touches for the new bird-mobile came in the mail the other day, my new Scenic Rivers license plates. And of course it’s fitting that the new plates have a depiction of a bird, a Great Blue Heron no less. Wave if you see me.

Remember what It’s all about.

Merry Christmas from everyone at “A Birder’s Notebook”

A Birder’s Haiku

Dedicated to the birder, as we start our week.

As we pause, reflect

on this holy Christmas morn

A Wren awakes