Aug 052013
 

15 years or more ago I was out in the Colorado woods when I stumbled upon a Nighthawk. Normally I see these birds flying high overhead, doing us all a favor by clearing the skies of bugs. This bird was down, in amongst the trees, and was feinting a broken wing … along one log, up into on a tree branch. Quite fascinating. Moments later my attention was drawn away from the bird (and it’s impressively pathetic progress from tree to tree) by a chick at my feet. This chick was slowly walking away, hoping to go unnoticed. I’ve never forgotten that brief but enjoyable encounter.

Broken Wing Feint

Mother Nighthawk feinting a broken wing to distract from her nest / chicks.

More recently, when bat monitoring by a nearby pond down on the flatlands, I get a treat as large numbers of these birds fly overhead. Sitting quietly next to the water’s edge I not only get to enjoy the birds flying low over the water, but they casually breeze mere feet over my head. Most people I try describing this to don’t even know what a Nighthawk is, and I feel very lucky to have this uncommon experience.

So when in the woods recently and a large bird flew up from the ground I knew to stop dead. Nighthawk? Chick? I looked down, and for a while I saw nothing. Eventually my eyes came to this nest, right below me. I call it a nest, but really it’s nothing more than a scrape, a clearing in the duff.

Nighthawk Nest with Eggs

Nighthawk Nest with Eggs. Nothing more than a scrape.

I didn’t want to cause the mother stress, so I left as soon as I’d taken the photo. She was coming back around, and trying to distract me with her broken wing feint (above). I wanted her to beleive she’d succeeded, so I followed her away & left.

A week or so later I went back to the site. What a pleasure to see these two little fur-balls within a foot of the original scrape. As I’ve watched them I’ve enjoyed the striking difference in their color. I don’t know if they are different sexes, or if the color is something else.

Young Chicks

Furballs aka Nighthawk Chicks

Yet another week or few, and look what a difference! Now feathered, and looking less like fur-balls and more like small Nighthawks. See the color difference? Size difference? I think they are in the same position as the photo above.  These guys are starting to show that wide bug-swallowing mouth:

Nighthawk Chicks

Nighthawk Chicks starting to look like small Nighthawks…

Another week, and they were gone. That said, they could’ve been feet away and maybe I wouldn’t have been able to see them.

What an experience to treasure. Fascinating birds, wonderful behavior.