Common nighthawk roosting on fencepost. Pawnee National Grassland, CO
While working on my Prairie Thunder book in 2006, I visited the Pawnee Grassland on a particularly hot July day. I made a lot of these missions for the project where I’d leave home in the afternoon and blast up to the Pawnee until sunset, then make the long drive home in absolute darkness. With the thermometer pushing near 100 degrees, this nighthawk roosted on a fencepost, waiting for darkness when insects come out. A member of the goatsucker family, nighthawks have wide mouths to help them snare insects in flight. Listen for their nasally peeent call at dusk and marvel at their ability to instantly change direction in mid-air. I’ve long wondered about the term “goatsucker”, so I looked it up using the Google box. Oxford says the origin began with the European nightjar: early 17th century: so named because the bird was thought to suck goats’ udders. Thanks Oxford, I’ll probably have a nightmare about this.