Common nighthawk sought refuge under table at The French, reunited with parent on restaurant roof

July 5, 2024

A common nighthawk and three chimney swifts were among the one hundred animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include two anhingas, a pileated woodpecker, a limpkin, two mottled ducks, a northern flicker, a great horned owl, three raccoons, and a chicken turtle.

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff received a call from Kaylen Ousley at The French, a restaurant on Fifth Avenue South, about a bird found under one of their outdoor tables. The bird had been seen under a table all day and appeared in distress. Kaylen willingly brought the bird to the Conservancy for care.

Juvenile common nighthawk found under a table at The French

A physical exam was performed upon admission and it became clear the bird was a healthy juvenile common nighthawk that had fledged from its rooftop nest and landed on the sidewalk. If the area hadn’t been so busy with pedestrian traffic, the young nighthawk would most likely have been able to fly off but instead sought refuge under a table.

Hospital staff quickly reached out to Kaylen to see if she had access to the rooftop. Our goal was to return the juvenile to the rooftop with the hope that the adult nighthawks would see their baby when they started their nightly foraging flights.

Kaylen was incredibly helpful and escorted a von Arx Wildlife Hospital staff member to the roof. Kaylen went up the ladder first and the staffer handed her the box with the young nighthawk. As Kaylen stepped on the roof, she saw a dark bird fly off and land on the shingles nearby. The bird was an adult nighthawk. Eager to quickly reunite the fledgling with its parent, von Arx staff guided Kaylen on what to do. Kaylen opened the box and gently lifted the young nighthawk up and out of the transport box. The nighthawk sat in her hand for a brief second before it flew and landed within three feet of its parent.

Adult nighthawk on shingles of nearby building

Hospital staff are incredibly grateful for the concern and help provided to the common nighthawk. Wild animals face many dangers in a world tremendously altered by humans, it is terrific when people can come together to help an animal in need, and truly, all the fledgling nighthawk needed was to get to a safe place away from human activity.

Please, if you believe you have found an animal in distress, never attempt to care for the animal yourself, call the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for assistance. Hospital staff have in-depth knowledge of native wildlife and can help determine the best course of action. In this case, staff knew that nighthawks frequently nest on rooftops and there was a high likelihood the fledgling would be just fine if it could get back to the roof. Successful reunions like the one that occurred with the nighthawk are exciting. Having people like Kaylen involved, who obviously care about native wildlife just as much as we do, makes our job incredibly rewarding.

Homeowners noticed a dead bird in their fireplace, and when they looked up, they saw a nest with three baby birds. Hospital staff knew exactly what species of bird they had found; chimney swifts construct a half-teacup-shaped nest and use their saliva to bond the twigs to the inside of chimneys. With the adult dead adult bird, staff knew the nestling swifts were orphaned. The homeowners collected the nestlings and brought them to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for care.

The three young swifts were naked, showed signs of increased respiratory effort and though they were vocal, they were weak. Hospital staff provided electrolytes and settled the babies in an animal intensive care unit in the nursery. Due to their young age, they required feeding every hour. The swifts have responded well to treatment and are thriving. They will receive care at our facility until old enough to fly and fend for themselves.

Swifts and nighthawks are fascinating birds that most folks don’t often see. Both species are insect eaters and are more active at dusk when flying insects are prevalent. Having both of these species admitted in one week was unusual.  

Recent Releases

A striped mud turtle, two eastern cottontails, two gopher tortoises, two red-bellied woodpeckers, two blue jays, a marsh rabbit, three northern mockingbirds, a Florida softshell turtle, three fish crows, an osprey, two Virginia opossums, a Florida red-bellied turtle, and two raccoons were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website at to learn about opportunities to get involved. Please consider volunteering, if you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate. Your support will help the Conservancy continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see