|Conservation status||Numbers appear to have decreased over much of the east in recent decades. Reasons for the decline are not well understood, but it could reflect a general reduction in numbers of large moths and beetles.|
|Habitat||Leafy woodlands. Breeds in rich moist woodlands, either deciduous or mixed; seems to avoid purely coniferous forest. Winter habitats are also in wooded areas.|
Forages at night, especially at dusk and dawn and on moonlit nights. Forages by flying out from a perch in a tree, or in low, continuous flight along the edges of woods and clearings; sometimes by fluttering up from the ground. Captures insects in its wide, gaping mouth and swallows them whole.
2. Whitish, marked with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents (usually more by female), 19-21 days. Young: Cared for by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitating insects. Age of young at first flight about 20 days. May raise 1 or 2 broods per year; female may lay second clutch while male is still caring for young from first brood.
Cared for by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitating insects. Age of young at first flight about 20 days. May raise 1 or 2 broods per year; female may lay second clutch while male is still caring for young from first brood.
Insects. Feeds on night-flying insects, especially moths, also beetles, mosquitoes, and many others.
Nesting activity may be timed so that adults are feeding young primarily on nights when moon is more than half full, when moonlight makes foraging easier for them. Male sings at night to defend territory and to attract a mate. Courtship behavior not well known; male approaches female on ground with much head-bobbing, bowing, and sidling about. Nest site is on ground, in shady woods but often near the edge of a clearing, on open soil covered with dead leaves. No nest built, eggs laid on flat ground.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Many spend the winter in the southeastern states, in areas where Chuck-will's-widows are resident in summer. Others migrate south to Central America; few occur in the West Indies.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA loud, rhythmic whip-poor-will, repeated over and over, at night.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Eastern Whip-poor-will
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Eastern Whip-poor-will
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.