Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis)

Lesser Nighthawk

Lesser Nighthawk

[order] CAPRIMULGIFORMES | [family] Caprimulgidae | [latin] Chordeiles acutipennis | [UK] Lesser Nighthawk | [FR] Engoulevent ronronneur | [DE] Texas-Nachtschwalbe | [ES] Anapero garrapena | [NL] Texasnachtzwaluw


Monotypic species


Physical charateristics

It has a short bill, and the upper parts of the body have a grey and white patterning. Its head and chest are brown, with white patterning. The underside of the bird has dark bars that run across its stomach. The wings are dark with conspicuous pale patches on the bend of the wing. The tail has thin white bars across the top. An adult male will have a white throat, while the female will have a buff throat and buff spots on inner parts of the wings.

Listen to the sound of Lesser Nighthawk

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/L/Lesser Nighthawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 50 cm wingspan max.: 53 cm
size min.: 20 cm size max.: 22 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 19 days
fledging min.: 20 days fledging max.: 19 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Latin America : Southwest USA to South Brazil


The Lesser Nighthawk prefers large open areas. They like relatively level topography and naturally open land, as opposed to disturbed open lands with weeds. They are ground nesters. They make their nest on vernal pool soils in large, open areas with low human and pet disturbances.


Lesser Nighthawks breed from early spring to mid summer. The females lay two speckled eggs in a nest constructed on the ground or on a gravel rooftop. The mother will incubate the eggs for eighteen to twenty days. Once hatched, the mother brings food to the newborn nighthawks. Once able to fly, the young nighthawks leave the nest and their mother.

Feeding habits

The Lesser Nighthawk is nocturnal. It ranges far on its nightly forays for food and social interaction.
The diet of the Lesser Nighthawk includes small insects such as winged ants, mosquitoes, beetles, moths, and grasshoppers. They catch these insects while flying high in the air, and near trees and brush along springs and streams.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The seven subspecies of the Lesser Nighthwak range from Texas (migratory) through Central America reaching the sedentay populations of Brazil and possibly Paraguay. This specis is not found in montane Andes, but found along the West Coast of South America to North Chile. In Suirname Race C.a. acutipennis is common in the savannah areas. Probably a mixture of migratory races from the north and sedentary species.
Lesser Nighthawk status Least Concern


Surprisingly little known; many populations possibly largely sedentary. Race texensis migratory, wintering from extreme S Baja California and C & S Mexico, S to Panama (Oct-Apr) and NW Columbia (Dec-Apr); occasionally also winters in S California and SW Arizona. Race micromeris also migratory, moving S through Central America and possibly across Gulf of Honduras; winters in Costa Rica and W Panama, possibly E to Canal Zone. S populations in South America possibly also migratory, moving N during austral winter. Often migrates in loose flocks, occasionally in large numbers. Vagrants have occurred in Ontario, Alabama, Florida, Bermuda and Trinidad.

Distribution map

Lesser Nighthawk distribution range map

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