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Fast flying black and white bird.

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Hello. Today my dad showed me a bird he spotted in the morning. There seems to be a group of them living in the neighbours field. The field is basically a slough, with long grass and other plants growing in the water. Some spots have clear, open water. In recent years my family has started to see a lot more birds, and it appears that there are some birds we've never seen here before. I think this bird is one of the species that has made this area its new home (or maybe I am only noticing it now because we have taken more of an interest in birds). We live in Alberta, Canada, and our area is kind of known for its wetlands and fields. 

I can say that it is not too small. Maybe closer to medium sized, but definitely not as big as a crow. I would say it's not a songbird. The bird has a jet black body with some bits of white on it. The underside of the wings appear to be grey, but I could be wrong. The tails are shaped like a skinny fan. The wings are thin and slightly angular. It has only been seen flying over the slough and it seems to be a fan of water as it flew over the road to a dugout. I saw it fly really high in the sky in groups, but a lot of them like to fly lower too. Something they do often is fly around, perhaps scanning the water, and then they stop and simply hover for a moment. At times one would fly to the edge of the road, close enough for us to get a clear enough view, and it would simply hover there. I think it was probably watching us. The noise it makes is similar to a squeak, and it makes a lot of noise. At some point a bird would fly in front of us and make lots of loud squeaking noises.

We weren't really able to get some good pictures, despite the fact that some of the birds would get pretty close to us!

I got a video of it but the person who took it had some kind of slow motion thing on. I am really sorry about the lack of information. I only made an account because we've been struggling to identify this bird. I have NEVER seen that bird anywhere in my province and I have never seen one like it.

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1 hour ago, Sneat said:

Welcome to Whatbird! Your description and video seem very similar to the Common Nighthawk. 



The bird I saw didn't look like a Common Nighthawk at all and did not fly like it did in the videos in that link. The bird I saw was literally solid black with bits of white on it. I will try to snap some good photos of it in the future. Thank you for replying!

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Almost looks like a Black Swift. Would be weird in open fields, I believe they make it northeast to Alberta though. It could also be a white throated, but I see no white throat in the video.  Both would be real rare out of the mountains. I agree with nighthawk right now. Listen to their peent calls

Edited by Connor Cochrane
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I will admit I considered Swifts, but you're right it doesn't have white on its belly. It has a totally black belly. I think it has white on its head. I will look at it tomorrow and take notes. Oh and the Common Nighthawk call doesn't sound like what I heard.

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Alberta for the most part is a pretty swift free zone. We do get black swifts to the west in the Rockies in areas like Jasper, but they are still not easy see. White-throated swifts would be an extremely rare occurrence anywhere in Alberta. So I think it’s safe to exclude the possibility of swifts in general. Also looks far too large to be a swift.

It looks like a Common Nighthawk to me as well. Looking at the video, there’s not much else that is here that it could be confused with.... at least nothing that comes to mind. The shape and flight pattern all looks right for Common Nighthawk to me. Though you stated it doesn’t sound similar... For me, the only calls I’ve ever heard them make is the one listed as “Calls and booming” on eBird.

The only other night bird which would look semi similar would be the common poorwill, but they very rarely make it into Alberta at all. Though if you’re at the extreme east or south it’s a possibility, but I believe those are much more nocturnal while Nighthawks are more Dawn/dusk. Yet I’ve never seen one at Dawn 🤔

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