The common nighthawk is not really a hawk as such; it is actually a member of the nightjar family. The term “nighthawk”, first recorded in the King James Version of 1611, was originally a local name in England for the European nightjar. Its use in the Americas to refers to members of the genus Chordeiles and related genera was first recorded in 1778. The common nighthawk has a large mouth with bristles that help it catch insects (as we see here in this composition). Males have a white throat patch and a white tail bar as we see in this example.
Joseph Cullingford (one of three brothers) of Durham was responsible for some of the finest taxidermy crafted during the late Victorian period and was appointed Curator of the University Museum, Palace Green, Durham in 1877. Although clearly operating on a commercial basis, Cullingford was employed at the Museum throughout most of his working life. From his Headed notepaper, it seems he had an arrangement enabling him to work privately whilst in the museum’s employ.
Henry Gervas Stobart, also known as Henry of Witton Tower, as he was the director of Horden Collieries Ltd of Witton Tower in Witton-le-Wear, was a very successful steel manufacturer and was born on 5 June 1869. He was the son of William Stobart (who sadly died having been struck by lightning) and Sophia Wylde. He married Bessie Brydges on 19 April 1897 and died on 21 August 1951 at age 82. He would have been twenty-six when he commission this piece to be made by Cullingford as they both lived and worked in Durham.
The call of the nighthawk joins the dusk chorus as this bird sets out on its zigzagging flight; a stunning signed work with a superb provenance.