English and Scientific names:

Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis)


Number of individuals: 

1 adult but unsure of the sex



Cameron Parish


Specific Locality:

Peveto Woods Sanctuary


Date(s) when observed:

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Time(s) of day when observed:  

2:30 PM


Reporting observer and address:

Jeffrey W. Harris
Baton Rouge, LA 70806

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

Jerry Lenhard

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)


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

bright and sunny; bird was perched on a dead tree limb that completely exposed it for viewing.


Optical equipment: 

8 x 42 binocular; Alpen; good condition


Distance to bird(s): 

40 feet


Duration of observation:

5 minutes



Oak Grove on the coast of Louisiana.  Tall oaks with shrubby edges and understory.  Many dead trees from hurricane activity (that offer perches for goatsuckers, etc.).


Behavior of bird: 

The bird was sitting quietly with its body aligned parallel to the branch.  Its eyes were partially open, and I feared it would fly before getting videotape, but the bird did not leave.




Initially, I saw a grayish silhouette of a goatsucker from my position which was 40 feet away.  The bird was perched about 20 feet above the ground.  I noticed the bird because the flat head and bill caught my attention.  The bird was about the size of a Northern Mockingbird.  Upon a closer look I could see the intricate pattern of white and gray feathers covering the wings.  I tried very hard to ID this bird from memory of the characteristics, but gave up when I could not get a satisfying look at the white bar and its position relative to the the tips of the tertials.  A stick was blocking my view, and I did not want to trample vegetation off of the path to get a different vantage.  I simply took what I had.  I called it a Common Nighthawk in the field; probably because I had seen 5 others earlier that day.



The bird did not vocalize.


Similar species:

I only made the call of Lesser Nighthawk after looking at the photos from my video.  It is not the best angle and the view of the white bar is partially blocked, but it appears that the white bar is even or just beyond the tertials, which suggests the Lesser Nighthawk.  The white bar would lie under the tertials if the bird was a Common Nighthawk.  I have seen Chuck-Will's-Widows and Common Pauraque before this sighting and knew this bird did not look like either of those.


Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

I made a videotape using a miniDV camcorder.


Previous experience with this species: 


Identification aids:

I used Sibley's, Peterson's and Kaufman's guides.


This description is written from: 

The description is from memory and some notes made after observation (later that night).


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


No.  I have little confidence in my abilities to discern these two species (Common and Lesser) in the field.  I just have not seen either one perched before this observation. Although the photos suggest Lesser, it is not the most definitive photo.


Date and time: 

April 26, 2010; 10:20 PM