Sand-colored Nighthawk

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Image:SCNighthawk.jpg

Common Name: Sand-colored Nighthawk
Scientific Name: Chordeiles rupestris

Size: 7.5-9.5 inches (19-24 cm); Wingspan: 19.7-22.4 inches (50-57cm)

Habitat: South America; found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. It does not migrate.

It’s preferred habitat is mainly rivers and marshes in forest and secondary growth, on rocky islands, sandy beaches and sandbars. It is also found near riverside villages and airstrips. It is a lowland species, recorded from sea-level to 500 m.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 16,000,000 adult individuals with a decreasing population trend. In Colombia, it is locally fairly common, especially along Amazon, Orinoco and Negro rivers. Eggs and chicks are at risk from avian predators such as the Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis), Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga), Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris) and especially Black Caracara (Daptrius ater), but humans are probably the most serious threat in many regions, as they take large numbers of eggs as part of local diet. Reptiles, such as snakes and iguanas, occasionally take small numbers of eggs.

Diet: Nocturnal insects, including moths and termites. Forages in flight, hunting low over sandbars and beaches or higher up above rivers. Also feeds over open country, usually near rivers, and on insects attracted to artificial lights. Often forages in loose flocks.

Nesting: Sexes are similar. On adults the upper parts are pale grayish-brown, mottled and are streaked with brown and cinnamon. The wing-coverts are pale grayish-brown, cinnamon and whitish and are boldly spotted with blackish star-shaped markings. There is no scapular pattern. They have a white throat patch and the under parts are grayish-white, tinged cinnamon, barred and spotted brown, becoming buff-tinged white on belly and flanks. They have a large white patch across the back of their wings, the trailing edge and wing-tips are blackish-brown, and all but the central pair of tail feathers are white and broadly tipped with brown The iris is dark brown and the bill is blackish-gray. The legs and feet are grayish-brown. Immatures are similar to adults but paler.

Breeding occurs during the dry season in low-water periods, from January and July to possibly late September in Colombia, May through August in Peru and June through September in Brazil. They often form loose colonies of up to 200 pairs. Nest-sites are usually on sandbar or beach along river. There is no actual nest, eggs are laid directly on the sand in a scrape (a dug-out depression on the ground). Clutches have 1–2 eggs which are elliptical, sandy-buff, possibly tinged bluish, and densely blotched and scrawled brown. The eggs are laid at 24-hour intervals. Replacement clutches may be laid if first eggs are lost through predation or flooding. The incubation period is approximately 21 days. The chicks have buffish down coat.

Adults which are flushed from nest-site may perform injury-feigning distraction display.

Cool Facts: Along certain stretches of river where aerial insects are particularly abundant, enormous congregations of several hundreds of Sand-colored Nighthawks can be found in late afternoon moving up and downstream.

There are two subspecies:

  • C. r. rupestris. First reported by Spix in 1825. The nominate species is found in Northeast Ecuador, Northeast Peru, Southeast Colombia and southern Venezuela eastward through north & central Brazil and southern to central Bolivia.
  • C. r. xyostictus. First reported by Oberholser in 1914. It is found in central Colombia (Cundinamarca). It is sandier than the nominate species.


Found in Songbird ReMix Frogmouths, Nightjars & Goatsuckers

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