Ben Barkley made a stunning find today along the main path near the Environmental Education Center at Lord Stirling Park in Bernards Township. What was first thought to be a possibly injured Common Nighthawk turned into a resting Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis).
To show how out of place this species is in North New Jersey and anywhere else in eastern North America, here is the distribution map of Lesser Nighthawk in North and Central America, courtesy of Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s Birds of North America.
Outside of Florida, records are nearly non-existent in the east with the only viable record from the northeast being the Lesser Nighthawk at Cape May in November, 2007. Is this species easily overlooked? Probably.
As of dusk this evening, Ben reports the Lesser Nighthawk was flying around Esox Pond and Branta Pond at Lord Stirling Park. The Lesser Nighthawk is apparently doing well.
A crucial difference in the flight appearance of Common (CONI) and Lesser Nighthawks (LENI) other than LENI is slightly smaller, is the placement of the vertical white patch on the wing. For LENI, it is closer to the tip of the wing, roughly two-thirds towards the tip. This may seem slight but it is noticeable. Ben has a photo showing this quite well.
As stated in Birds of North America: “The outermost (10th) primary of Lesser Nighthawk is shorter than the 9th, resulting in a wing that appears more rounded than that of Common Nighthawk.”
The coloring is also noticeably different in resting birds with the LENI having much buff coloring.
Here is the LENI at rest on the path at Lord Stirling Park late today. Click on the photo for a larger image.
For comparison, here is a Common Nighthawk photographed at Troy Meadows by Chuck Hantis on May 14.
Congratulations to Ben for a spectacular find and for the presence of mind to ascertain the correct identification of the bird.
Note to eBirders: This is a New Jersey review species and as such will be submitted to the New Jersey Bird Record Committee for acceptance as the second state record. It will be validated (reviewer parlance), or confirmed (end user term), by this eBird reviewer but will be categorized as “In Review by BRC” until a decision is made by the NJBRC. Also, please give descriptions of what was seen in your comments. Avoid the perfunctory and meaningless “Continuing Bird” comment.
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