Saturday, February 7, 2009

Common nighthawk

I ended up heading home early from work yesterday. I seem to have caught something.

Not feeling well the week is probably shot at this point


When I first moved to Champaign I was unaware of the existence of common nighthawks (Chordeiles minor) they were just not a bird native to the area I'd priorly lived. I had seen a few flying around on campus and was confused about what species of weird bats I was seeing with white spots on their wings. They move in a very bat-like manner and have really short beaks, I also did not get a really good look at them. I could not track down the bat species and gave up not really thinking about it again.  Later I was working for our local exotic animal vet and we got one in for surgery. I remember being very confused (and upset, very hurt bird) by the little eyeless monster we received in it was a bird with an incredibly large mouth that was making hideous unnatural shrieking noises. I would have also been struck by it's large eyes had the accident it had been involved with not put them out. They ended up putting him down because he was injured beyond repair. I found out what the bird was later and then felt really dumb for thinking those were bats. I also tend to now associate them with trauma after the vet incident. 
      Nighthawks are a type of nightjar not at all related to hawks this particular species lives in North America and winters in South America. They seem to be mostly crepuscular given when I have seen them out. During their breeding display the male makes a loud booming sound and dives sharply. Most of the time their call is just isolated "peets". They eat mostly flying insects that they catch on the wing. Common nighthawks will eat quite a lot of insects one sampled had over 500 mosquitoes in it's stomach.
      Given the association have with them I did end up using them in a piece. It had these three nighthawk emerging from a single being and breaking out of this confining structure. I've included a picture of it below. I'm not sure the piece did quite what I wanted. I think if I ever revisit it I will probably make it more on an installation piece with lots of nighthawks spiraling up over the viewers head. I might play with the lights a bit or something so that one would get this chaotic movement around them as well. 

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