English and Scientific names:

Lesser Nighthawk, Chordeiles acutipennis

Number of individuals: 

One female in first basic plumage 

Locality: LOUISIANA: 

Cameron Parish


Specific Locality:

Baton Rouge Audubon Society’s Peveto Woods Sanctuary



Date(s) when observed:

October 30, 2004



Time(s) of day when observed:  

Approx. 5:00 PM

Reporting observer and address:

Paul E. Conover

Lafayette, LA


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

 Fred Benham [found the bird], Dave Patton, Harriet Pooler, Victoria Bayless, et al.

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

Good light; shady to dappled to sunny as breeze moved branches.

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss 10x binos-excellent condition.

Nikon ED Fieldscope.


Distance to bird(s): 

40-50 feet

Duration of observation:

Approximately 30 minutes of viewing a perched bird with no obstructions.


Woodland. Bird was perched in an acacia about 30 feet above ground.


Behavior of bird: 

The bird was lying along a grapevine, sleeping.



Goatsucker, smaller than Whippoorwill, cryptically colored with browns and grays.

Wings on perched bird did not quite reach tail tip.

  • Crown and sides of head barred and speckled dark brown and buff, with lateral barring across forecrown. A buff “eyebrow”.
  • Chin and throat overall buffy, appearing somewhat scaly perhaps due to feather texture. Mantle dark brown with buff markings, with distinct pale blazes formed by whitish or buffy-whitish scapulars.
  • Wings dark, coverts mostly gray with fine dark  markings, but with buffy ‘wingbar’ formed by buff tips to lesser or median coverts. Alula whitish with buff wash. Lower edge of the folded wing buffy, [retained buff-tipped juvenile greater coverts?] with black markings mixed in. There appeared to be buff-tipped primary coverts visible as well.
  • Tail with wavy bars of buff and dark brown, of even width, at least some rects tipped buff.
  • Some rear scapulars [?] overall medium grayish lightly dusted or barred extremely finely with blackish markings, at least one with an irregular black branching line down the shaft.
  • Underparts with pale buff ground color, barred with dark brown brackets [middle point of bracket on shaft pointing distally]. Brackets seemed densest on breast, slightly more widely spaced [thus paler] and broader or more diffuse on belly and flanks, and more discrete on undertail coverts.
  • Primaries dark brown, distinctly marked with buff spots. The buff spots were clearly the exposed areas of buff bars crossing the primaries. Two adjacent outer primaries had spots that lined up, but the bars on the next primary did not line up, creating a staggered appearance to the spots.
  • Small black bill; eyes [rarely opened] dark brown.




Bird was silent.

Similar species:

  • Non-nighthawk nightjars eliminated by overall pattern.
  •  Common Nighthawk separated by buff markings on the outer primaries, and by the proportion of wings to tail.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

I took video, and Dave Patton took digital photos through the Nikon scope. Patton’s shots were better, and are included with this report.


Previous experience with this species: 

Seen on a few occasions out west. On one of these, I found a fresh roadkill and was able to take pictures of the primaries to note their pattern.

I have also studied and photographed the nighthawk collection at LSUMNS with the aim of learning points for the separation of the species. 


Identification aids:

See Previous Experience above. At the time of the sighting, Natl. Geo. Guide and Sibley guide were checked.

After the sighting, Donna Dittmann was consulted for her opinion in ageing the bird.

This description is written from: 

Mental notes, video, study of photos.

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




Paul Conover

Date and time: 

November 1, 2004