Antillean Nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii)

Antillean Nighthawk


The Antillean nighthawk (Chordeiles gundlachii) is a nightjar native to the Caribbean and Florida Keys. The adults are dark with brown, grey and white patterning on the upperparts and breast; the long wings are black and show a white bar in flight. The tail is dark with white barring; the underparts are white with black bars. The adult male has a white throat; the female has a light brown throat. The most distinguishing characteristic to determine its identity from its closest relative the common nighthawk are the contrasting pale tertials near the back of the wings of a sitting bird. There are two color morphs, a gray and a rufous type. Like other nighthawks, this bird will display by flying upward with a distinctive call note, then diving, pulling out of the dive only a few feet from the ground. This creates a rush of air and distinctive sound.


The call is a short pikadik usually heard overhead. The common nighthawk occasionally will make a similar call, but it is not as consistent. In the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the bird is called querequequé, an onomatopoeic term which originates in Taíno.

Distribution And Habitat

The Antillean Nighthawk is a locally common breeding bird on Puerto Rico from May to August (Rafaele and others 1998). On Vieques, it is a rare breeding summer visitor (Gemmill 2015). This species has nocturnal and crepuscular habits, and inhabits open fl at areas, pastures, savannas, gravel beaches, rocky outcrops, and coastal fringes (Biaggi 1997, Brigham and others 2011, Raffaele and others 1998). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 254 records within 134 hexagons or 28 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 134 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 12 percent (16) of the hexagons, probable in 18 percent (24), and possible in 69 percent (93), while the species was observed in 1 percent (1) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map).

Antillean Nighthawk Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Antillean Nighthawk nests on the ground among leaves, sand, or gravel from May to July, according to previously published reports (Raffaele and others 1998). Also, it is well known for its propensity to nest on fl at gravel roofs, especially in cities (Brigham and others Antillean Nighthawk distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding. 75Antillean Nighthawk/Querequequé2011). Atlas results indicate that the Antillean Nighthawks breeding occurs mostly between March and August, with a peak in May within the subtropical dry forest life zone and in June within the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). We are skeptical of breeding observations in other months of the year, given that most nighthawks migrate out of Puerto Rico at this time. The “possible” category is probably not a good indication for breeding in this species. Results show that the Antillean Nighthawk mostly breeds within the subtropical moist and subtropical dry forest life zones (51 and 47 percent of the hexagons, respectively), but some breeding activity has also been reported for the subtropical wet and subtropical rain forest life zones (see table and map). Most breeding is on the coastal plain with a paucity of records on the east coast.


The Antillean Nighthawk population is suspected to be declining probably owing to increased predation, use of pesticides that reduce insect numbers, and habitat loss (Brigham and others 2011). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, it is listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Antillean Nighthawk has a protected habitat in land of 10 percent or 321 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (3183 km2).