ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"What to Do With Flying Pests"

Common Night Hawk

        Leaving our home in Bloomington just as the sun was setting, the sky looked huge, blue, and lifeless, except for a few fluffy clouds. When we climbed a small hill by the Tonaquint Intermediate School, everything changed. Everything! The skies were teaming with flying objects. Everywhere we looked there were bats and more bats. I was always told in my early years that if you saw bats to keep your head covered, or the
bats would fly into your hair, and drive you crazy. That was a good way for parents to get their kids to stop common nighthawkplaying when the sun went down and to come back home. But I was an adult now, sitting in the safety of a vehicle, and had never heard of a real bat attack, so it was a pretty neat sight to see. Right in the middle of all the bats we saw some Nighthawks. This was a real treat.

        Common Nighthawks aren’t so common anymore. Common Nighthawks will nest on a bare substrate like sand, gravel, dirt, rocks, and even roofs in urban areas. Once common, they are losing ground because of habitat loss, pesticides, and a switch from gravel roofs to rubber roofs in urban areas.

         The Common Nighthawk has one of the longest migration routes of North American birds. They make a late arrival at breeding grounds in the spring and leave in early fall for South America. Their diet is strictly flying insects which I wholly agree it should be. Whenever I see these birds, I feel like shouting because I know they are out there ridding the air of a zillion flying pests. Every day the last few weeks, we have had silver dew drops falling through the sun’s rays onto our pasture. In reality, they are mating ants and I don’t know why they are mating because we already have way too many ants. Luckily for us there are birds who have learned to enjoy this flying feast. The ants provide food for a lot of birds.

         When you are out and about, at dusk or dawn, watch for the Common Nighthawk with its white wing patches and erratic flight. If you would like to know more about birds or the monthly activities of the Red Cliffs Audubon, call 435 673-0996. Brenda Rusnell has painted the beautiful Common Nighthawk with color pencils. 
   
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