English and Scientific names:

Lesser Nighthawk

Chordeiles acutipennis

Number of individuals: 

Probably four at the fewest:

1 male, 3 females.



Specific Locality:

BRAS Sanctuary / Peveto Woods

Date(s) when observed:


This was a big weekend for western birds in general, including Lesser Nighthawks.

Time(s) of day when observed:  

First sighting on afternoon of 24th, seen intermittently on 25th.

Reporting observer and address:

Paul Conover

Lafayette, LA

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Many. Dave Patton saw and photographed two of these birds—I did not submit duplicate photographs of those two individuals.

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)

Someone reported on 4/24 that a nighthawk in the woods may have been a Lesser. During the course of the next 2 days, these birds were flushed by numerous people. I urged any and all to study the birds and photograph them.

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Sunny, fine.

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10s, Canon HandiCam, Nikon D50 w/200 mm lens.

Distance to bird(s): 

15 feet closest

Duration of observation:

Probably ˝-1 hour combined.


Seen in woods of sanctuary, flushed repeatedly, returned to horizontal limbs. It was pretty easy to find nighthawks that weekend by looking for such limbs.

Behavior of bird: 

Flushed when approached, flew between trees, landed nearby. At dusk on the 24th, I watched at least 4 nighthawks get up and begin circling the area.


Obviously nightjars. Nighthawks by wing patterns (white in area of alula, etc.).


Bird 1. The first bird that I got a good look at (4/24; I was birding alone at this point) appeared to be a female. It was cryptically colored as is typical for this species. It had:

·        Mottled throat with thin white lower border that was concealed when her head was tucked down.

·        Buffy solid wingbar and buff spotting forming partial wingbars anterior to solid wingbar.

·        Solid wingbar about even with tip of tertials.

·        Solid wingbar extending out to outer web of outermost primary, with the portion of the wingbar on the outer web of outermost primary broad and perhaps flaring outward—a fieldmark suggested by Donna Dittmann.  

·        Buffy wingbar on (lesser coverts?).


Bird 2. The second bird was seen on 4/25. Dave Patton got good photos of this bird—Bird 1 on his photo page. It was a female and had all of the same features as the female above. The only difference I can note is the exact pattern of buff spots in the wings.


Bird 3.  The third bird was seen on 4/25. Dave Patton got good photos of this bird as well—Bird 2 on his photo page. This bird was a male with:

·        Clear white throat patch extending in an inverted V in the center toward the chin.

·        White or whitish wingbar extending well beyond the tertial tips

·        Buff spots forming partial wingbars anterior to solid wingbar.

·        Pattern of wingbar spot on outer web of outer primary as noted above.


Bird 4.  Also on 4/25. This is the second bird on my photo page. I found it perched, filmed it briefly, and left it so that another birder could photograph it. The other birder—Dr. Faust?—should have much better photos. This bird, which I THINK I noted the buff wingspots on, differed from all other birds I saw by having a grayish throat and gray extending over the anterior part of the crown. I have no idea if that is a typical pattern in LENI.



The nighthawks seen in flight on the evening of 4/24 for the most part held in place in the wind. Good photos weren’t possible. These birds seemed to have a different wingtip shape than Common, with less pointed tips. The outer 2 or 3 primaries appeared to project outward about the same distance, giving a more hand-shaped wingtip.


Not heard.

Similar species:

Common Nighthawk eliminated by extensive buff spots on basal portion of primaries.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Bird 1 above photographed by me and represented on photo page.

Bird 2 photographed best by Dave Patton—see his photo page.

Bird 3 photographed best by Dave Patton—see his photo page.

Bird 4 videotaped poorly by me. See my photo page. Also photographed with big lens by Dr. Faust.

Previous experience with this species: 

Seen twice previously in LA and a handful of times elsewhere.

Identification aids:


This description is written from: 

Memory and photographs.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 


Yes for Birds 1-3, can’t prove for # 4. For #4, I hope someone can contact Dr. Faust for his pictures.

Date and time: