In her late thirties, Gretchen Newberry left her office job in Portland, Oregon, to become a wildlife biologist studying nighthawks. The common nighthawk, Chordeiles minor, has long fascinated birders, scientists, farmers, and anyone who has awoken to its raspy calls on a hot city night. In The Nighthawk's Evening, Newberry charts her journey across North America to study these birds, from the islands of British Columbia to rooftops in South Dakota, Oregon sagebrush, and Wisconsin forests.
This acrobatic, night-flying bird nests on rooftops and flocks in the thousands as it migrates from Alaska to Argentina and back every year. Nighthawks are strange animals, reptiles with feathers, sleepy during the day, but quick, agile, and especially adept at survival. They have the ability to withstand extreme temperatures and adapt to many habitats, but they are struggling for survival in the Anthropocene.
Newberry's story focuses on the bird itself – its complex conservation status and cultural significance – and the larger, often hidden world of nocturnal animals. Along the way, she gives readers insight into the daily life of a scientist, especially one who works primarily at night. The Nighthawk's Evening uses one scientist and one species to explore the challenges, disappointments, and successes of scientific research and conservation efforts. An accessible work of science, it will appeal to birders, students, wildlife managers, and anyone who is fascinated by urban wildlife.
Gretchen N. Newberry earned a PhD in biology from the University of South Dakota, where she studied common nighthawks. She now conducts outreach promoting biodiversity in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, and maintains a personal blog, A Feathered Reptile.