Bird Database

Common Nighthawk

(Chordeiles minor)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Long distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation, Habitat maturation, Predation, Human disturbance, Prey declines,

Conservation Actions

Minimize use of pesticide, avoid disturbing nesting sites, research threats

Common Nighthawk

(Chordeiles minor)

Here in New Hampshire, you’re most likely to encounter the Common Nighthawk during fall migration, when hundreds pass through the major river valleys in late August and early September. The fact that some daily counts tally thousands clearly shows that there are significant populations breeding to our north, but sadly this is no longer the case in the Granite State.

As recently as the early 1980s, nighthawks were a common sight in urban areas across the state, from Berlin and Groveton to Keene and Nashua. Twenty years later they were restricted to Keene, Franklin, and Concord and are now only in the latter city. Even in Concord they are no longer in the urban core, where they historically nested on flat rooftops, meaning that there are no longer any downtown nighthawks in New Hampshire. In Concord they still use roofs in the outskirts but are just as likely to nest on the ground in gravel pits or remnant pine barrens. Away from the capital city, nighthawks are most common in the Ossipee Pine Barrens, with scattered individuals also on rocky ridges in the western part of the state.

Reasons for the decline of this species are not well understood, but it is the subject of increased research attention throughout its broad range across North America. Given the loss of urban populations, early speculation in the Northeast centered on the loss of gravel rooftops. NH Audubon tested this in the early 2000s by installing gravel “patches” on roofs all over the state, but none were adopted by nighthawks. Now we think about declines in insect populations, direct effects of pesticides (including on the South American winter range), loss of natural habitat, and even the cumulative effect of collisions with towers and wind turbines. It seems unlikely that nighthawks will again be a common breeding bird over New Hampshire’s cities and towns, but if biologists can stop their decline, we can hope to still see flocks feeding on flying ants as they work their south from Canada each fall.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Common Nighthawk
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count