BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND AND EASTERN NEW YORK - HOFFMANN

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NIGHTHAWKS, WHIP-POOR-WILLS, ETC.: FAMILY CAPRIMULGIDÆ

There is a belief common among country people that the Nighthawk and Whip-poor-will are one and the same bird; it is probably due to the fact that the latter is so rarely seen, and so constantly heard.

NIGHTHAWK. Chordeiles virginianus
10.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Entire upper parts, when seen near to, black, finely speckled with gray, and a little brown; middle pair of tail-feathers like back, the others tipped with black and crossed near the tip by a white band; a broad band of white across the throat; breast black, speckled with gray; belly gray, barred with black, often tinged with buff; wings long and narrow; a broad white bar crosses the wing, showing best from below. Ad. ♀.— Similar, but throatband buff instead of white; no white on tail.

Eggs, laid on bare rocks or gravel roofs, dull white speckled with gray or brown.

The Nighthawk is a summer resident throughout New England and New York, conimon in some localities, rare or absent in others. It arrives in May and leaves for the south toward the end of August, when large flocks of Nighthawks are often seen passing overhead, particularly along broad river valleys; it is occasionally seen in September. Curiously enough, though the suburbs of many of our large cities are no longer wild enough to offer the Nighthawk proper breeding-sites, it has found the flat gravel-covered roofs of the cities themselves suitable for nesting-sites, while the air about supplies it with an abundance of food. The Nighthawk is a not uncommon sight over the streets of Boston and New York, and its harsh peent is a common sound. Outside the cities it breeds on rocky hillsides, or in wild pastures, laying its two eggs on flat rocks or bare spots where their speckles of gray or brown harmonize with the surrounding stones and lichens. In the breeding season the male dives down from a considerable height, and as he nears the ground turns off and up in an abrupt curve; at the same time he manages to produce, probably with his wings, a loud and peculiar booming sound. The neighborhood of water attracts Nighthawks, as it does the swallows, and doubtless for the same reason. They may be seen hawking high over the river valleys, their long wings carrying them forward with apparent deliberation, though constant, quick upward strokes, or rapid turns to either side, betray the ceaseless search for insect food. Their size, when thus feeding, distinguishes them from any swallow and from the Swift; they are often taken for small hawks, but they may be always recognized by the bar of white across the wing, which shows best from below. Occasionally one may be seen perched lengthwise along a limb or a fence-rail. (See following species.)

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[graphic]

Nighthawk

WHIP-POOR-WILL. Antrostomus vociferus
9.75 in.

Ad. ♂.— Upper parts a mixture of black, gray, and yellowishbrown, no white; wings barred with black and yellowish-brown; throat black; upper breast black, crossed by a narrow white band; rest of under parts buff, speckled with black; middle tailfeathers like back, the three outer pairs with the terminal half white. Ad.♀.— Similar, but band across breast buff, and outer tail-feathers narrowly tipped with buffy white.

Eggs, creamy-white, spotted with lilac or lavender, laid in dry leaves on the ground in woods.

The Whip-poor-will is a locally common summer resident throughout New York and New England, arriving late in April or early in May, and staying into September. It is a bird of the woodland, especially along streams or at the edges of farming-land, and has become scarce in many localities, as the woodland has given way to cultivated ground. It spends the day in dense thickets or in deep woods, on the ground or on low limbs, and if surprised in such a place it flutters off as if bewildered, but with noiseless flight.

The song of the Whip-poor-will begins at dusk, is heard at intervals all night long, and regularly before dawn; it is often repeated a hundred times in rapid succession. If the song is heard at close range, it is found to begin with an introductory chuck. During midsummer the song is less frequently heard, but on the breeding-ground it is repeated a few times nearly every night, even in September.

By those who live surrounded by woods, the Whip-poorwill is not infrequently seen sitting at dusk on the ridgepole of some shed, or flying about engulfing moths and beetles in its cavernous mouth. Its relative the Nighthawk is much more often seen by day, roosting on some limb, fence-rail, or rock. Both lie lengthwise on the limb, but the Whip-poor-will has a white or buffy band on the upper breast, while the Nighthawk has one on the throat.

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Whip-poor-will

The Whip-poor-will has conspicuous bristles about the bill, has no white bar on the wing, and has the entire plumage much speckled with yellowish-brown. The Whip-poor-will has a rounded tail, and the outer feathers end for a greater or less length in white or buff; the Nighthawk has a forked tail tipped with black and crossed in the male near the tip by a white band.


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