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Species Description

Whip-poor-will

Caprimulgus vociferus


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae

Description

Mottled gray-brown; black throat; white (male) or buff (female) neck band; outer tail feathers tipped in white (male) or buff (female). 25 cm (9.75 in) in length. The song of the Whip-poor-will is a distinctive evening voice with three syllables, sounding like its common name with an accent on the first and last syllable.

Habitat

The nesting habitat is commonly woodlands, on open ground or under the protection of a shrub.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-April, peaks in May, and extends into early July. No nest is built. The female usually lays 2 eggs that she and the male incubate for approximately 17-20 days. The young are semi-precocial and are ready to fly around 14-20 days. Both adults care for the young until they become independent.

Natural History

This species is nocturnal, doing most of its hunting and singing at night, especially at dawn and dusk. Its habitat includes open country for foraging and woodlands for nesting and other activities. The Whip-poor-will has a diet of insects, mostly moths. This species forages while on the wing, using its bill to scoop up prey and swallow it whole. The Whip-poor-will is migratory.

Range

Whip-poor-will Region Map During the breeding season, the Whip-poor-will occurs throughout most of the eastern portions of the United States, except in the southern third of the country. In the winter it occurs in the southern coastal areas of the United States south through Central America. In Georgia, it is common in the northern half of the state during the breeding season and along the extreme southern portion of the state and coastal area during the winter.

Conservation Status

The Whip-poor-will has been declining in some areas, probably due to land use changes. It is common within appropriate habitat and is not listed as requiring special attention in any portion of its southeastern range.

Similar Species

The most similar species is the Chuck-will's-widow. The Chuck-will's-widow is larger than the Whip-poor-will. It has a brown throat with a small white or buff neck band. Outer tail feathers of males have large white patches with the tips being a buffy-brown. The female Chuck-will's-widow lacks white on the outer tail feathers. The song of the Chuck-will's-widow is a distinctive four-syllable song sounding like its common name.