The Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor), is a species of nightjar found in open country across much of North America. These birds winter in South America. They migrate in flocks. The Common Nighthawk is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.
The adults have dark with brown, gray and white patterning on the upperparts and breast. The long wings are black and reveal a white bar when in flight. The tail is dark with white barring. The underparts are white with black bars. The adult male has a white throat; the female has a light brown throat. The call is a short peet usually heard overhead. The male performs an aerial display during courtship, creating a booming sound near the end of a steep dive. The sound is produced by air rushing through the wingtips.
Their breeding habitat is open country across North America. They usually nest on bare ground, sometimes in raised locations including stumps or gravel roofs. They especially favor burned areas in forests. The two eggs are laid directly on bare ground. Incubation is performed largely by the female and lasts for about 20 days. Young fledge at about 20 days of age. There may be a second brood in the southern part of the United States.
They catch flying insects on the wing, mainly foraging near dawn and dusk (crepuscular), sometimes at night with a full moon or near street lighting.
Common Nighthawks are called bullbats in many parts of the United States. The origin of this name is not clear. The erratic flight and crepuscular habits of the nighthawk resemble those of bats. In addition, the name (perhaps bull) may refer to the loud booming sound of the male’s display.