Common Nighthawks are (Chordeiles minor) are neither common nor hawks. But, they are associated with the night, so at least one part of their name is appropriate. Nighthawks are closely related to Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's-widows. As a group, nighthawks and other related species are known as "nightjars" because they jar the night with their calling. The family is sometimes referred to as "goatsuckers" due to the mistaken believe that they suck milk from goats (no way!)
Common Nighthawks are ground-nesting birds that are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. The species adapted to nesting on flat roofs because historically roofs were finished with tar and gravel and the stones mimicked natural nesting sites, which were lost to agriculture and development. In recent decades, builders and roofers have moved away from using gravel to using rubber, paint, or other material. As is the case with Chimney Swifts, nighthawks did well when they adapted to human structures but are now experiencing population declines because of changes to the man-made environment.
To provide habitat for nighthawks and to determine best practices, we placed a total of 31 gravel patches on the roofs of six buildings. Five of the buildings have six 10x10-foot patches of small river rock framed with 2x4's to keep the rock from moving. One building has one 10x10-foot gravel patch.
Photo depicts Don Gorney, President of Amos W. Butler Audubon; Madie Podgorski, project intern; and Ross Brittain, Indiana Director of Bird Conservation, National Audubon on the roof of the Indiana Interchurch Center. They are at one of six 10x10-foot gravel patches placed on the roof.