Next week the last survey window opens for counting nightjars by the light of the moon. It’s a fun way to go birding on a moonlit night — June 20 to July 6, 2018.
Nightjars are a worldwide family of nocturnal/crepuscular birds that eat flying insects on the wing. They have long wings, short legs, short bills and very wide mouths. Two of these cryptically-colored species are found in Pennsylvania:
- Common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), in flight above, breeds in cities and open habitat, grasslands, dunes.
- Eastern whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), roosting below, breeds in forests near open areas.
Both populations are in steep decline and so are other nightjars in North America. Scientists don’t know why and they need more data. That’s where we come in.
Nightjar surveys are easy to perform and will not take more than two hours to complete. Volunteers conduct roadside counts at night, on scheduled bright moonlit nights, by driving and stopping at 10 points along a predetermined 9-mile route. At each point, the observer counts all Nightjars seen or heard during a 6-minute period.
Wait for a moonlit night, drive your route, stop and listen. Count by sound! Click here for their voices.
The Nightjar Survey needs volunteers across the continent — not just in Pennsylvania. Here are the species to count.
- Antillean nighthawk
- Buff-collared nightjar
- Chuck-wills-widow (named for its call)
- Common nighthawk (named for its behavior)
- Common pauraque
- Common poorwill (named for its call)
- Lesser nighthawk
- Eastern whip-poor-will (named for its call)
- Mexican whip-poor-will
p.s. While you’re out there you might hear owls. 🙂
(photo credits: common nighthawk in flight by Chuck Tague; roosting whip-poor-will by Cris Hamilton)