Common Nighthawk Overcomes Injuries To Soar Again

common nighthawk on the ground
Photo by Paul Steeves, wildlife rescue volunteer and photographer

The following story was shared with us by the Wildlife Rescue Association in British Columbia, Canada.

On September 10, 2019, Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia rescued a common nighthawk that was grounded near a busy intersection of Vancouver, B.C. These birds are a rare sight for most. Their excellent camouflage skills allow these graceful fliers to blend in with their surroundings. Wildlife Rescue staff suspected something was wrong, because this species is active during dusk, yet they found this patient grounded in broad daylight.

Upon examination, technicians found the nighthawk was reluctant to stand and used the right wing to prop itself up. There was bruising on the right knee, reduced pain response in the right foot and zero flight, however, the flap was strong. It was also under weight at 66 grams (about 2.3 ounces). With further examination, staff discovered the nighthawk had a fracture at the base of the keel and a healing fracture on the right leg near the knee. This would require gentle care, minimal handling, and lots of hand-feeding!

common nighthawk being handfed
Photo by Paul Steeves, wildlife rescue volunteer and photographer

Nighthawks hunt on the wing, opening their wide mouths to collect flying insects in the air. Because of this hunting technique, self-feeding in care is rare unless offered flying insects in a large enclosure. To help this nighthawk stay healthy and plump, technicians at Wildlife Rescue hand-fed the nighthawk every 90 minutes, alternating between mealworms and EmerAid IC Carnivore. This nighthawk proved easy to feed; as staff approached with a small syringe filled with EmerAid, the nighthawk would often “yell” at them, opening its large mouth and allowing staff to insert the food.

As the nighthawk gained weight, we decreased its EmerAid amount and could eventually feed mealworms. After two weeks of treatment and monitoring, the nighthawk was ready to move to its pre-release conditioning enclosure. We saw lots of great flight here with some rough landings at first, but with some practice, the nighthawk proved itself worthy of release! After a month in care, the nighthawk could soar into the dusky evening once again.