Sand-colored Nighthawk Chordeiles rupestris

  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Polytypic: 2 subspecies
  • Authors: Nichole Whyland



Sand-colored Nighthawk is crepuscular and nocturnal, becoming active around dusk. Nighthawks roost on the ground during the day, usually on sandbars, often among driftwood or thickets. Roosts often are communal. During periods of high water, gathers in groups that may number in the hundreds, perching on branches overhanging the water (Sick 1993).

Sand-colored Nighthawks forage on the wing for flying insects, and often forages in large groups (of up to 50 or more individuals). Foraging typically is over sandbars, beaches, and rivers, but nighthawks also forage over airfields, villages, and oxbow lakes that are near rivers. Foraging flights typically are low over sandbars, and higher when foraging over rivers (Hilty and Brown 1986). These nighthawks forage very actively for 15-30 minutes at dusk, but subsequently are active only periodically during the night (Hilty 2003). The flight style of Sand-colored Nighthawk is not as erratic as that of other species of nighthawks; instead, utilizes a deeper, smoother, and "oddly mechanical" flapping motion, resembling that of a tern or shorebird (Hilty and Brown 1986).


No information, but since Sand-colored Nighthawks are colonial breeders, they likely would be territorial only in the area most immediately around their nest (a small area).

Sexual Behavior

Little information. Sand-colored Nighthawk presumably is at least socially monogamous. Sick (1993) describes a courtship display, which takes place on the ground (and during the day?): "The male courts the female by stretching his neck vertically, swaying from right to left as he walks. He keeps his throat very much inflated and his tail fully open, displaying the white on each ... Suddenly he sites and stretches horizontally, touching the ground with his swollen throat (which almost obliterates the bill) while maintaining the position of his tail". Whittaker (1994) refers to "displaying males ... chasing one another and calling loudly in flight", but otherwise does not describe the nature of these aerial displays.

Social and interspecific behavior

Sand-colored Nighthawk is gregarious, typically roosting, foraging, and breeding in groups of several dozen to several hundred individuals (Sick 1950, Hilty and Brown 1986, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001b, Hilty 2003).

Recommended Citation

Whyland, N. (2015). Sand-colored Nighthawk (Chordeiles rupestris), version 1.0. In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.