Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory

Headquarters at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Research & Monitoring

Project Nighthawk

The Common Nighthawk is thought to be declining based on anecdotal accounts and limited survey information. For example, the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) inadequately monitors the species because of its crepuscular habits; BBS results for Wisconsin (http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/atlasa09.pl?04200&1&09) indicate a 1.8% annual decline, both long-term (1966-2009) and short-term (1999-2009).

CONI is widely distributed in Wisconsin and inhabits both native habitats and those more closely associated with humans. CONI was found in 19% of the quads during the six years of field work during the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (Atlas) project, with approximately half of the probable and confirmed breeding records from priority blocks from urban, rural residential, or agricultural habitats (N. J. Cutright, et al., 2006, WSO). In urban settings, CONI uses flat rooftops for nesting and the vast airspaces above for foraging. The remaining Atlas records were from more or less native habitats.

Because existing bird monitoring programs do not adequately monitor CONI populations, a nocturnal survey targeting this species (along with Eastern Whip-poor-will) was initiated in the Northeast in 2005. Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative (WBCI) became the first Midwest state to join this effort when a small pilot study was started in 2007, followed by an intensive statewide survey in 2008 that has continued annually. While this survey appears to be effective for monitoring whip-poor-wills, Ryan Brady, WBCI’s Bird Monitoring Coordinator, stated in his report for 2009 that the survey is “inadequate for Common Nighthawks as currently designed”.

During the summer 2012 breeding season, we asked cooperators to submit records of Common Nighthawk observations from anywhere in Wisconsin. Data is still being entered at this time. See a map below detailing the statewide distribution of records.

pdfWI Summer 2012 Nighthawk Observations

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