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Bird Habitat Conservation Toolkit

Image of Bird
The Common Nighthawk swoops over open grass or water to catch insects mid-air, hunting mainly at dusk or dawn. Their tendency to build ground nests in recent openings makes them vulnerable to silviculture and salvage logging.

Common Nighthawk

(Chordeiles minor)
Overview
status
SARAThreatened
AlbertaSensitive
British ColumbiaYellow
Primary Habitat
Open/burned pine
Nest Type
Ground
Territory Size
~28 ha
Nest Reuse
Some
Breeding Window
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Stand-Level
Operator training to avoid disturbing nests during postharvest/postfire activities
Landscape-Level
Natural disturbance (wildfire) and early-seral habitats within NRV

Habitat Ecology

  • Common Nighthawks are mainly found in grassland habitats, but part of the population breeds in open pine or mixedwood forests including lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, mixed pine/aspen, and young mixedwoods.1–5
  • This species prefers open habitats including recently burned or logged stands.6 They hunt by catching insects mid-air over open ground and/or water.1
  • Common Nighthawks lay two large, spotted eggs on open ground or near logs, boulders, grass clumps or shrubs.1

Response to Forest Management

  • Fire suppression is the main threat to Common Nighthawks as it reduces openings and bare ground within forested habitats needed for foraging and nesting.6 Afforestation of abandoned agricultural areas and grasslands likewise reduces habitat availability for this species.7
  • Common Nighthawks have been observed in stands with low (2%) retention, recent clearcuts, and recently thinned Douglas fir stands (30–40% retention), however at numbers too low for statistical analysis.8–10

Stand-level Recommendations

  • Recent harvests or burns may attract nesting pairs of Common Nighthawk, and ground nests are highly vulnerable to disruption during silviculture (e.g., site preparation, planting) or salvage logging.6
  • Operators should be on the lookout for this species from mid-May until the end of August.1
  • The following recommendations apply to operators working in recently disturbed (mainly pine) stands:
  • Halt operations if a flushing adult is observed and mark off the suspected or known nest area to be avoided.
  • General buffer recommendations for ground-nesting species range from 10–25 m for low-impact activities (e.g., planting) and 50–100 m for high-impact activities (e.g., road-building).11
  • If defensive behaviour (e.g., hissing, diving, flushing) is observed, buffer distances should be increased until the behaviour ceases.

Landscape-level Recommendations

  • Maintenance of natural disturbance regimes (e.g., wildfire) and management within the natural range of variation to maintain distribution of early-seral habitats.2–5,12
  • Province-wide data indicates that tamarack stands and wetlands may represent important habitat on the landscape,13 however these passive areas should not be considered as substitutes for open upland forests, whose value is known.

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