Field Report from the 2023 Nighthawk Season

Hope is the Thing With Feathers….

This is the spot for information on the search for nesting nighthawks in Keene. Think of it as a quest: a highly coveted quarry with little chance of success, but there’s joy in the journey.

August 15, 2023
A historic illustration of a Common Nighthawk and a Common Whip-poor-will.

Are nighthawks becoming part of Keene’s history, rather than the present?
(drawing © Birds of Pennsylvania via the Biodiversity Heritage Library)

End-of-Season Summary


Sadly, for the second summer in a row, nighthawks did not nest in Keene this summer. Our community scientists conducted June watches at Keene State College and West Street — both popular nighthawk haunts in the past — but did not hear a single peent. In addition, no Monadnock Region nighthawk sightings were reported to eBird in either June or July.

Concord & Beyond

Becky Suomala of NH Audubon reported that there were “good numbers of active sites in Concord and Ossipee,” but unfortunately many of the Concord nests failed, likely due to the excessive rain. The rain also made it difficult to schedule watches, so nest data is not available for Ossipee this year.

Back to top
August 15, 2023

Migration is underway…

Two nighthawks dart through the air. (photo © parulidae photos)

The best time to see migrating nighthawks is in late August, between 5:30 and 7:30  p.m. You’ll have to look, not listen, as migrating nighthawks tend to forage silently.
(photo © parulidae photos via the Flickr Creative Commons)

Nighthawks are among the latest migrants to arrive each spring, and the earliest to depart each “fall,” with southbound migration peaking in late August. This year, the region’s first migrants were seen in Westminster, VT on August 14. You can learn more about the fall nighthawk migration here.

If you’d like to search for the spectacle with other nighthawk aficionados, join us for a birding outing near Green Wagon Farm in Keene on Thursday, August 24. (Learn more & register here.)

If you want to look on your own, remember that nighthawk behavior changes during migration: the best time to see migrating birds is between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., and you’ll have to look, not listen — migrating nighthawks tend to forage silently. It’s not uncommon to see an ethereal flock floating down Main Street in Keene or the Contoocook River in Peterborough, so keep your eyes to the skies in late August and early September!

Back to top
June 23, 2023

Quiet Skies

A female nighthawk and her two-week-old chick, well-camouflaged on a gravel roof. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

The last time nighthawks nested in Keene was 2021 (pictured). Will our beloved birds return? (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Project Nighthawk volunteers conducted individual watches at Keene State College and 33 West Street — both places that have hosted nighthawk nests in the past — on June 15 and 22, but did not hear a single peent.

Nighthawks are creatures of habit, particularly during the breeding season. If they were attempting to nest, we’d almost certainly have seen or heard them at one of their old haunts in June.

It now seems clear that — for the second year in a row, after more than a decade of nesting attempts — nighthawks are not nesting in Keene this summer.

Back to top

Contact Us

For more information or to volunteer, please contact Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 525-3394 or by email.