Natural History Notes on the Birds

Owls and Nighthawks

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About the categories

Name

Common name

Food

The main food category.

Feeding Techniques

How it acquires its food.

Habitat

What kind of area does the bird live?

Plumage

Is there similarity between the male and the female, between winter and spring, young and adult, or are there variations in the plumage amongst the species.

Distribution

Approximately where it is found in the United States.

Breeding

Unique aspects on how the species breeds.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Special notes on the status or natural history of this bird.

Notes from A. C. Bent

Selections from the Life Histories of North American Birds, edited by A. C. Bent.

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Name

Barn Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily small mammals

Feeding Techniques

Hunts at dark; finds prey primarily by hearing them first. Probably hears its prey better than it sees them. Ears are asyncrhonously located on the head so it can triangulate the sound made by prey, thus giving the owl a very precise location.

Habitat

Wide variety of habitats

Plumage

The male and the female have similar plumage; no seasonal differences

Distribution

Throughout the United States

Breeding

Nests in buildings, burrows, nesting boxes

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

"The Falcon is a heartless tyrant, and in this hour of his anxiety, he rejoices in a chance to vent his spite upon an innocent Barn Owl. Only luck can save the Owl. Some I have seen smashed in midair, and others merely bowled over, to rise wrathful but silent, and scramble into cover before a second bolt should fall."

Dawson is talking about the manner of the Prairie Falcon who periodically will hunt the Barn Owl. He uses the expression "vent his spite" to give some extra character to the falcon. Vent his spite basically means "to take his anger out". In this case he is accusing the falcon of taking his anger out on the Barn Owl by attacking it while it is in the air. Falcons almost always attack their prey in the air. Obviously falcons eat a lot of birds.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The barn owl has few enemies other than its arch enemy, man; it is deplorable that these interesting and useful birds are so often killed because of their supposed destruction of game birds or poultry, of which they are seldom guilty, or because they make interesting specimens to mount.

The great horned owl seems to be their chief natural enemy. These large, fierce, and powerful owls have been recorded several times as killing and devouring the gentle and weaker barn owl, which seems to be incapable of defending itself against such a formidable foe. Dawson (1923) says of the prairie falcon: "The Falcon is a heartless tyrant, and in this hour of his anxiety, he rejoices in a chance to vent his spite upon an innocent Barn Owl. Only luck can save the Owl. Some I have seen smashed in midair, and others merely bowled over, to rise wrathful but silent, and scramble into cover before a second bolt should fall."

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Name

Short-earred Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Small mammals

Feeding Techniques

Finds prey while flying at night.

Habitat

Wetlands

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no seasonal difference

Distribution

Throughout most of the US

Breeding

Nests on the ground

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

The short-eared owl is one of the most cosmopolitan of birds, as it is found in every continent except Australia. In its habits it differs from most owls in preferring open plains, marshes, and sand dunes to thick forests, where it is almost never seen, and in the fact that it frequently hunts by day. Although it sometimes takes small birds, its feeding habits in general are of great value to man, for its favorite food consists of rodents. When field mice or voles increase so as to become veritable plagues, various owls, especially of this species, have been known to congregate in the infested region and to have done great service in destroying the pests. There are several such records in various counties in England extending back to the sixteenth century. Such a plague of mice is described by Hudson (1892) as occurring in South America in 1872 - 73, when short-eared owls were most important agents in stopping the plague. Not withstanding their proved value, ignorant and thoughtless gunners continue to shoot these beneficial birds, and their numbers are diminishing.

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Pygmy Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Small mammals and birds

Feeding Techniques

Generally finds prey from a perch

Habitat

Riparian woodlands

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Scattered throughout the western states

Breeding

Breeds in cavity in tree

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

One of the classic moments of American ornithology has to be the moment that the American naturalist John Burroughs was standing with Theodore Roosevelt in Yellowstone National Park listening to a Pygmy Owl for the first time.

Notes from A.C. Bent

Voice: The majority of the notes uttered by this pygmy are decidedly musical and hence not at all like other owls'. Most hearers have noted the resemblance of its commonest notes to the cooing of the mourning dove. My own experience has been that while the notes are short and repeated like a dove's, and there is at least a suggestion of the dove's rolling effect, still the pygmy's notes are somewhat sharper, and each note more distinct, than the dove's.

When Theodore Roosevelt and John Burroughs first heard one of these owls in the Yellowstone National Park, they could not at first believe that it was an owl. Roosevelt (1904) says: "We had seen a pygmy owl no larger than a robin sitting on top of a pine in broad daylight, and uttering at short intervals a queer, un-owllike cry." Burroughs (1906) wrote: "It was such a sound as a boy might make by blowing in the neck of an empty bottle." Mrs. Bailey (1928) says the note of an immature female "was a long whistle followed by a cuckoo like cuck, cucic, cucic, cucic, cuck."

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Name

Snowy Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Primarily mammals

Feeding Techniques

Looks for prey from perch

Habitat

Tundra

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Mostly Canada, Alaska but does come into the north part of the US as food supplies fluctuate during the winter time.

Breeding

Nests on tundra using a hill for nest so it has good visibility

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: As with most birds of prey, the chief enemy of this owl is man; it is so conspicuous in the open country that it frequents, while with us in winter, that it is relentlessly pursued, as a handsome trophy to have mounted; it is one of the most popular ornaments for store windows and barrooms. Fortunately it is so shy and so hard to kill that many escape. 

Dr. Sutton (1932) says: "The natural enemies of the Snowy Owl are chiefly the Arctic Fox, which steals eggs and young, whenever it can, and the Eskimos, who not only shoot Ookpikjuak for food, but who catch them in traps and gather their eggs in the early spring. About the Post the Husky dogs broke up several nests of Snowy Owls. * * *

 "On February 8 Jack Ford witnessed a remarkable combat between a trapped fox and an owl. The great bird swooped and dashed at the unfortunate animal and tore its face open with its savage beak and claws. The fox was nearly dead when Jack reached the spot."

A. M. Bailey (1926) says that "Mr. Brower saw two Pomarine Jaegers kill a Snowy Owl this season near her nest. The jaegers swooped upon the flying bird forcing her to the ground and then, with repeated onslaughts from the wing, finally killed the owl."

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Great Horned Owl

Lesson Plan

Food

Mammals

Feeding Techniques

Hunts from a perch at night.

Habitat

Diverse habitats. Lives in forests but needs clearings to do its hunting.

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Throughout the US.

Breeding

Breeds in nest in tree

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

I have since learned that my experience was not unique. I find in the literature reports of numerous similar attacks on men at the nests. Professor Keyes (1911) says, of a blow that he received: "It came absolutely unexpected and was so violent as to leave the left side of my head quite numb. * * * The slash which began on the left cheek and ran across the left ear was rather ugly but not dangerous. * * * Three times on this occasion one of the birds flew in from a neighboring tree and with strong stroke of wing came straight at my head. It was not at all the stoop of hawk or falcon, but rather the onrush of a heavy projectile with a very fiat trajectory. Like a large projectile too the flight was visible and so all the more disconcerting; unlike a projectile it was noiseless as a flying shadow."

Donald J. Nicholson (1926) received even rougher treatment when he climbed to within 6 feet of a nest containing eggs; he writes: "Swiftly the old bird came straight as an arrow from behind and drove her sharp claws into my side, causing a deep dull pain and unnerving me, and no sooner had she done this than the other attacked from the front and sank his talons deep in my right arm causing blood to flow freely, and a third attack and my shirt sleeve was torn to shreds for they had struck me a third terrible blow on the right arm tearing three long, deep gashes, four inches long; also one claw went through the sinew of my arm, which about paralyzed the entire arm."

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Name

Western and Eastern Screech Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Small mammals, insects

Feeding Techniques

Looks for prey from perch

Habitat

Riparian forests

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. , no difference between sexes

Distribution

The two species cover the United States

Breeding

Uses cavity in tree

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Nesting: He says that the nests are very rarely found, and that "the eggs are almost invariably deposited in natural hollows in trees, the only exceptions being extra big holes made by the Northwestern Flicker (Colaptes cafer saluratior). One of these two cases was a hole that had been excavated to a depth of only about six inches, in a lone dead fir stub that stood in a vacant lot in the city. A most unusual nesting site in every way for these owls, as the cavities used are most often two or three feet in depth and situated in well wooded localities. The nests that I have seen were placed from four to twelve feet above the ground, but it is impossible to say what the average height may be in this country where trees two hundred feet tall are the rule rather than the exception."

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Saw-whet Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects, small birds and mammals

Feeding Techniques

Uses both hearing and vision to locate prey while perched.

Habitat

Mixed forests

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. , no difference between sexes

Distribution

Northwest states and northeast states

Breeding

Uses cavity in tree

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Glaucidium is the genus name for the Pygmy Owl

Notes from A.C. Bent

Courtship: We common mortals, who cannot see in the dark, know very little about the courtship performances of the owls, except what we can learn from listening to their springtime voices. All owls are more active and noisy at the approach of the breeding season than at other times, and the saw-whet owl is particularly so. Major Bendire (1892) quotes Dr. William L. Ralph as saying: "Just before and during the mating season these little Owls are quite lively; their peculiar whistle can be heard in almost any suitable wood, and one may by imitating it often decoy them within reach of the hand. Upon one occasion, when my assistant was imitating one, it alighted on the fur cap of a friend that stood near him." W. Leon Dawson (1923) writes: 

During the brief courting season, when alone the notes are heard, the male is a most devoted serenader; and his song consists of breathless repetitions of a single syllable, whoop or kwook, vibrant and penetrating, but neither untender nor unpleasing. In the ardor of midnight under a full moon, this suitor whoops it up at the rate of about three whoops in two seconds, and this pace he maintains with the unfailing regularity of a clock. But to prevent his lady love from going to sleep, he changes the key occasionally. In quality this Nycteline note is not unlike the more delicate utterance of the Pygmy Owl. * * * There can be no confusion, however, as between the incessant cadences of the Saw-whet and the xylophone "song" of Glaucidium.

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Name

Spotted Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Small mammals

Feeding Techniques

Hunts from perch

Habitat

Old growth forests

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. , no difference between sexes

Distribution

Coastal part of Pacific coast states; also a population can be found in New Mexico and Southern California

Breeding

Nests in old growth forest ; sometimes uses old hawk nest.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Food: Rats and mice of various species seem to be the favorite prey of the spotted owl, wood rats (Ateotoma), white-footed mice (Peromyscue), and the red tree-mouse (Phenacomys), which forages in the forest trees. It also, probably, eats some chipmunks and other small squirrels, other small rodents, and a few birds. Mr. Dawson (1923) says: "Curiously, however, two instances are on record where remains of Pygmy Owls, Glaucidium gnoma, have been found in the stomachs of recently killed Spotted Owls." 

Charles W. Michael (1933) found an interesting collection of pellets under a perching tree, of which he says: "Here we got a big surprise, for scattered through every pellet examined were a number of muskmelon seeds. Other identified particles contained in the pellets were egg shells, apparently hen's egg shells, hair from a ground squirrel, small mammal bones, and other bones that looked like bits of bone from a pork or mutton chop. As the owl flies, it is just about half a mile to the bear feeding platforms where owls could get such things as egg shells, melon seeds, and mutton chops.

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Great Gray Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Mammals

Feeding Techniques

Will hunt by day or night. Uses perch to find prey.

Habitat

Northern forests

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. , no difference between sexes

Distribution

Small populations in various forests as south as Yosemite

Breeding

Quite often uses old nest site of hawks, owls, or Raven.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Winter: Edward H. Forbush (1927) writes:

When the northern forests fail to produce cones for winter food of small arboreal birds; when deep snows cover the runways of mice, and grasses and weeds that feed ground-birds and when bush rabbits and ptarmigan are scarce in the northern wilderness; then we may expect an unusual invasion of Great Gray Owls. Such a combination of circumstances probably does not occur often, but in the winter of 1842: 43, according to Dr. Samuel Abbott, seven of these birds were taken in Massachusetts, and probably many more were seen and went unrecorded. In the winter of 1890: 91 such numbers of this species were killed in eastern Maine that Mr. Grosby, taxidermist of Bangor, received 27 specimens. Some birds from this flight reached eastern Massachusetts, where a few were taken. * * * The bird is reported here and there in northern New England nearly every winter, but is noted seldom in any of the three southern New England states. Although it is a forest bird, it may be found almost anywhere in winter outside the cities and very rarely even within city limits, but it prefers deep woods, and as it is here chiefly in winter and moves about mainly at night, it is rarely seen.

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Burrowing Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects, small mammals

Feeding Techniques

Feeds during day and night

Habitat

Open fields; wetlands

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Western states. Population is decreasing rapidly

Breeding

Nests in a burrow in the ground.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Behavior: As an exception to the rule, stated in my opening paragraph on this species, it is interesting to note that Clinton G. Abbott (1930), when he came to San Diego in 1921, found burrowing owls living in well-settled parts of the city. A certain individual roosted daily in a pepper tree in front of the Central Y.M.C.A., almost in the heart of the business district. On El Cajon Boulevard, which was a well-traveled thoroughfare even in those days, Burrowing Owls could often be seen perched on the side-walk curb. They lived in the culvert drains under the intersecting streets.

The paving of this boulevard has driven these birds away, and the Y.M.C.A. "Billy" has gone, yet in spite of San Diego's present 150,000 population Burrowing Owls still subsist wherever there is any extent of vacant land. In quiet streets they can sometimes be seen hawking about the arc-lights at night and settling on the pavement below: probably in pursuit of moths. On Reynard Way, which is a short-cut between down town and the Mission Hills residential district, these Owls are common, because many of the sloping lots on each side have not yet been built upon. Even in broad daylight a "Ground Owl" may often be seen standing upon some advertising sign, apparently unconcerned at the passing stream of automobiles.

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Name

Long-earred Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Mammals

Feeding Techniques

Locates prey while flying

Habitat

Forests near open areas.

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Throughout the US except the Southeast

Breeding

Doesn't build its own nest but rather uses old nest of hawk, crow, raven.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Young: The incubation period is generally considered to be about 21 days. An egg is laid about every other day, and since incubation begins when the first egg is laid the young hatch at similar intervals and show considerable variation in size. It does not seem to be known whether the male assists in incubation, but he is always close at hand, while the female is incubating, during the day at least, and responds quickly to her cries of distress. Probably he hunts for food at dusk and during the night and may feed his mate on the nest or relieve her to hunt for herself.

When between four and five weeks old the largest young birds begin to leave the nest, crawling out onto the surrounding branches. All leave the nest long before they can fly, climbing about or fluttering down to perch on any low branch or fallen tree. They are carefully guarded by both parents during this period, who rush to their defense and attempt to lure an intruder away by spectacular demonstrations. They are fed by their parents until they are at least eight or nine weeks old, have gained the full power of flight, and have learned to hunt for themselves. The family group keeps more or less together during summer and fall and perhaps during winter.

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Barred Owl
Lesson Plan

Food

Mammals

Feeding Techniques

Locates prey from perches

Habitat

Mixed forest

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Eastern states, but moving into the west

Breeding

Nests in tree, usually in a hollow of a tree, or abandoned nest of hawk or crow.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Enemies: The misguided sportsman and the farmer with a gun are the owl's worst enemies; any hawk or owl is shot on sight, as a supposed killer of game or poultry; many large owls are shot to be mounted as ornaments, or as trophies of man's prowess. Next to man crows seem to be the owls' bitterest enemies. I have often traced the location of an owl by the clamor made by a band of noisy crows that were pestering him. No sooner does a crow discover an owl than he calls up all his friends and the fun begins. I have no evidence to show that the crows ever inflict any serious injury on the owl, but they make life miserable for him, darting at and about him and heaping upon his innocent head all the vile epithets that crow profanity and insulting language can produce. J. D. Carter (1925) gives the following interesting account of this:

No sooner was the bird on the wing than a party of Crows, idling in the neighborhood, gave chase with all the choice expletives which are reserved for the big Owls. When perched in the midst of a cawing mob, the Owl would duck its head when one of the Crows made a dive at it, and would often counter by a thrust of the beak. When the Crows were quiet enough, the snapping of the Owl's beak could be plainly heard for 100 yards. The Owl did not make any visible attempt to use its feet as weapons. On two occasions it dived into a big hollow beech tree, leaving the watching mob outside. No doubt the Crows would have gone away in time, but in both cases the Owl came out again before they had dispersed. When perched in the open, the Owl's plan, if it had any, was to endure the pestering and profanity until the Crows one by one lost interest and drifted away; then by easy stages, approach, and finally disappear in the nest cavity. It did not approach its nest so long as a single Crow appeared to be watching. There was no loud talk near the nursery door.

To see an image of a Crow attacking a Gt. Horned Owl.

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Name

Common Poorwill
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Feeds from the ground

Habitat

Open areas, arid habitat

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Western states

Breeding

Nests on the ground but does not creat any nest structure. Young are precocial.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

The only species of bird known to hibernate.

Notes from A.C. Bent

In some of its habits it differs considerably from the preceding species of this family which are almost entirely confined to the denser woodlands; the Poor-will, however, although frequently found in similar localities, is apparently equally as much at home on the open prairie and the almost barren and arid regions of the interior, which are covered only here and there with stunted patches of sage (Artemisia) and other desert plants. The climate does not seem to affect it much, as it inhabits some of the hottest regions of the continent, like Death Valley, in southeastern California, as well as the slopes of the Rocky and Blue mountains, in Oregon, where it reaches altitudes of from 6,000 to 8,000 feet. I have heard the Poorwill in Bear Valley, Oregon, in a locality where frost could be found every month in the year.

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Name

Common Nighthawk
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Catches insects while on the wing; usually feeds at dusk

Habitat

Open areas - sometimes can be found around small towns

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

Throughout the US

Breeding

Nests on the ground.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

Long before the white man came to America the nighthawk was well known to the indians, and we find it taking a prominent place in their myths and traditions. Apparently the notes of this bird appealed most, since the names chosen by the various tribes were usually graphic allusions to the calls or to the characteristic booming noise heard during the courtship season. To the tribes along the Connecticut River this booming was the sound of the Shad Spirit announcing to the shoals of shad, about to ascend the river, of their impending fate. The nighthawk was known to the Seminoles of Florida as "Ho-pil-car." In the Milicite Indian Natural History there is the name "Pik-teis-k wes," and according to W. W. Cooke (1884) the Chippewas not only had the name "Besh-que" for the nighthawk but recognized it as a species distinct from the whippoorwill, to which they gave the name "Gwen-go-wi-a." That the Chippewa Indians differentiated these two species is all the more remarkable when we recall that this distinction was confused by Catesby and the American ornithologists of the next 50 years who followed him. It was Alexander Wilson who first noted that they were distinct species.

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Name

Lessert Nighthawk
Lesson Plan

Food

Insects

Feeding Techniques

Catches insects while on the wing; usually feeds at dusk

Habitat

Open areas

Plumage

The male and the female have the same plumage. no difference between sexes

Distribution

The southwest deserts

Breeding

Nests on the ground.

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent

The Texas nighthawk is a large, pale race of the species Chordeiles acutipennis, which is divided into additional races in Central and South America. Our 1931 Check-list states that it "breeds in the Lower Austral Zone from north-central California, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and central Texas south to about lat. 300 in Lower California, and to south-central Mexico."

The Texas nighthawk is a common summer resident in the warmer portions of the Southwestern United States; we found it generally distributed throughout the arid desert regions of Arizona, along the river bottoms and dry washes, and, in the more fertile regions, about the sloughs and coursing over the alfalfa fields. H. S. Swarth (1920) writes: "In all the valley towns of southern Arizona the Texas nighthawk is a familiar sight. It has not, as yet, acquired the habit of its eastern relative of nesting upon the flat roofs of buildings, but throughout the summer the birds may be seen in numbers at dusk, hawking about, low over the houses. In walking about on the desert one is sure to flush Texas nighthawks from their resting places under the bushes, where they usually remain during the daytime."

In Texas Dr. J. C. Merrill (1878) found it most plentiful just outside of Brownsville, and he discovered several sets of eggs within the fort. In the San Bernardino Mountains, Calif., according to Dr. Grinnell (1908), "the Texas nighthawk is a characteristic breeding bird of the Lower Sonoran zone, but like several other species of the same zone wanders up even into Transition during the late summer." And farther north, "in the Yosemite section it was observed only at our lowest stations, west of the foothills" (Grinnell and Storer, 1924).

Courtship: Mr. Swarth (1920) says: "The male Texas nighthawk performs no such spectacular evolutions as the eastern nighthawk does in the breeding season, but he has a comparable, though lesser performance, usually given when in pursuit of the female. Both birds flying low over the bushes, the male repeatedly utters a low, chuckling sound, 'tuc-tuc-tuc-a-tuc-tuc: c-r-rooo,' a rolling note, the finale very dove-like in effect. 'While uttering this call the wings are held stiffly extended downward. Then, in ordinary flight, there is repeatedly given a long drawn, nasal 'w-a-ng.'" Grinnell and Storer (1924) give the following account of it:

It was the height of the nesting season [May 5] and the birds were courting actively. A male, distinguished by the larger and whiter bands on his wings and the more conspicuously white chin patch, was pursuing a female. The male always followed, but at close range, rarely more than two lengths behind the female. Occasionally a second male joined in the pursuit, but evidently with only partial interest, for he frequently circled off by himself. Less often the two male birds pursued one another, weaving an irregular course up and down, in and out, but never rising much if any over 50 feet above the ground. The progress through the air was easy yet swift, a few strokes of the long wings sufficing to carry the birds through a long glide. Often as they passed close over the observer the barred pattern of the under surface was clearly visible, as was also the broad subterminal baud of white on the lower side of the tail. While the males were on the wing their low crooning trills were heard almost continually, swelling and diminishing as the birds approached or departed. When they rested on the ground between flights they gave the same notes, prolonged but also with longer intervals of quiet. One trill lasted 25 seconds and another fully a minute. These notes remind one of the quavering call of the Screech Owl save that they are longer continued, on one key, and uttered in almost the same cadence throughout.

Alden H. Miller (1937) adds the following observation: "The contrast in degree of whiteness in wing and throat patches of males and females was at once evident. That this sexual difference apparently was recognized by the birds and that it was specifically accentuated by the actions of the male were facts new to me. As a male swung into line behind a female, his white throat was displayed so that, as the pair flew toward me, the brownish white throat of the female was scarcely noticeable, whereas that of the male was a conspicuous white beard. The impression was gained that the feathers of the throat of the male were lifted and that the whole throat area was expanded. Usually, perhaps always, this 'flashing' of the throat patch was accompanied by vocal notes."

Nesting: The nesting habits of the Texas nighthawk are no more elaborate than are those of its relatives in the minor group; the eggs are laid on the bare ground, without any attempt at nest building or even scooping out a hollow, in some open sandy or gravelly spot, and usually with little or no cover to shade them from the full glare of the sun. We were too early for eggs while I was in Arizona, but. after I left, my companion, Frank Willard, found two nests in Pima County on June 10, 1922; each was on the ground at the foot of a greasewood bush; he says that after the female had been flushed from one of the nests the male attempted to drive her back onto the eggs.

Bendire (1895) says that he has "found its eggs on the parched gravelly mesas of southern Arizona, miles from the nearest water. Their favorite breeding resorts here are dry, barren table-lands, the sides of canyons, and the crests of rocky hills." Dr. Merrill (1878) says that in Texas the eggs "are usually deposited in exposed situations, among sparse chaparral, on ground baked almost as hard as brick by the intense heat of the sun. One set of eggs was placed on a small piece of tin, within a foot or two of a frequented path. The female sits close, and when flushed flies a few feet and speedily returns to its eggs. They make no attempt to decoy an intruder away. I have ridden up to within five feet of a female on her eggs, dismounted, tied my horse, and put my hand on the bird before she would move."

Robert S. Woods has sent me some photographs (pls. 38, 89) of a nest that he found on April 27, 1923, in the San Gabriel Wash, in Los Angeles County, Calif., where he says this nighthawk is a common summer resident; the eggs, he says (Woods, 1924b): were deposited in a gravelly area covered with low second growth, mostly deer-weed or wild broom (Syrmatium glabrum). It may be observed In the photograph that the gravel, which was here loose because of previous leveling of the ground, bad been smoothed by the removal of the larger pebbles over a space such as would be covered by the body of the nighthawk. The few stones scattered over it were probably rolled there by the movements of the bird in rising or alighting after the eggs had been laid. * * * On one hot day the eggs were moved back several Inches Into the partial shade of the nearest shrub, being restored to the original position after the warm weather had passed. The mother would remain on her eggs until approached within perhaps ten feet, but after being once disturbed she would not return as long as any person or suspicious object remained anywhere In the vicinity. The other parent, if present in the neighborhood, showed no Interest in the family affairs.

In the Fresno district, according to John G. Tyler (1913), the great majority of the Texas nighthawks nest in the vineyards; four of the five nests observed by him were in vineyards, either at the base of a vine or on bare ground between the vines; the fifth was "on soft ground at base of a sunflower growing in a field of melons."

Mrs. Bailey (1928) says that "at Brownsville, Texas, hundreds of Texas Nighthawks are said to be found in the city nearly throughout the year nesting on the fiat roofs of the adobe houses."

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Lesson Plan

Food

Feeding Techniques

Habitat

Plumage

Distribution

Breeding

About the Notes from A.C. Bent

Notes from A.C. Bent