A.D. 2013, and the State of Tennessee makes a point on its dove hunting website of informing gunners that Common Nighthawks ”are protected by State and Federal regulations and killing them or shooting at them is strictly prohibited.” Seems a strange thing to have to remind people of, but apparently the birds were frequently taken in the past, according to Gross
often for mere sport or for satisfying a lust for killing. This was especially true in the southern states, where the birds were slaughtered during the great flights of the annual migrations.
Appealing as these fast and erratic fliers were for target practice, they were also, it seems, good eating. Audubon, no doubt speaking, as usual, from experience, tells us that “its flesh is by no means unpalatable.” Gross quotes a Virginia hunter of the 1870s who says that they are “quite as fat and better game” even than Bobolinks, and Shufeldt wrote in 1897
in my time I have met with people who were very fond of nighthawks (Chordeiles), and would spend a whole evening in shooting a sufficient number of these caprimulgine birds for their table.
Makes me wonder what they taste like — Audubon says of the smaller nightjars that “the flesh is savoury,” but I don’t suppose I’m likely to find out.