Frequently, warm summer and cool spring evenings are filled with the nighthawk's continual courtship calls and erratic flights. The male flies high above dry forests and forest clearings, gaining elevation for the courtship climax. From a great height, he dives swiftly to the ground, finally thrusting his wings forward in a braking action as he pulls out of the dive. The quick thrust of the wings produces a deep, hollow vroom. The nighthawk has a very wide gape fringed with feather shafts that effectively increase the size of the mouth for catching insects. Nighthawks are generally less nocturnal than other members of their family, but they still spend most daylight hours resting on a tree limb or on the ground. They have very short legs and small feet, and they sit lengthwise, not across the branch like most birds.
I.D.: Sexes similar: cryptic, light to dark brown plumage; barred underparts. Male: white throat. Female: buff throat. In flight: white wrist patches; long, pointed wings; shallowly forked tail; flight is erratic.
Size: L 81/2-10 in. (22-25 cm).
Range: fairly common migrant and breeder throughout the Rockies.
Habitat: dry coniferous forests, open woodlands, meadows, larger lakes and grasslands in the foothills.
Nesting: on bare ground, in a spot chosen by the female; female incubates 2 eggs for about 19 days.
Feeding: catches insects in flight; eats mosquitoes, beetles, flying ants, moths and other insects.
Voice: frequently repeated, nasal peent peent; also makes a deep, hollow vrooom with its wings.
Similar Species: Common Poorwill: much less common; lacks the white wrist patches; shorter, rounder wings.