Nighthawks and Poorwills



These unusual-looking birds have flat heads and very short bills with extremely wide gapes. Many have rictal bristles around their beaks; these specialized feathers may help funnel prey into their mouths as they forage for flying insects. Many swallow stones as grit to help grind up the hard exoskeletons of their insect prey. They have large, dark eyes that reflect light, and they are often spotted on roadsides when their eyes shine from car headlights. They generally have long wings and maneuver well in flight. Although they spend much time on the ground, they have short legs and small, weak feet. When perching on tree limbs, they usually perch lengthwise along the branch, not crosswise like most birds. They do not usually build nests, but lay two eggs on the bare ground. Both parents help raise the young.