Conservation status Still fairly common in its limited U.S. range.
Family Nightjars
Habitat Pine-oak woods in mountains. Breeds in woodland in mountains and canyons, mostly in the pine-oak zone at middle elevations, sometimes higher.
In mountain forests of the southwest, this shy nightbird is fairly common in summer. Until recently, it was considered to belong to the same species as the Eastern Whip-poor-will; its voice has a similar pattern, but a rougher and lower tone quality.

Feeding Behavior

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, either unmarked or very lightly marked with brown. 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.


Cared for by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitating insects. Age of young at first flight about 20 days.


Insects. Feeds on night-flying insects, especially moths, also beetles, mosquitoes, and many others.


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 woods but often near the edge of a clearing, on open soil covered with dead leaves or pine needles. 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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Present in the U.S. only in summer, but probably a permanent resident farther south in Mexico.

  • 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.

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Songs and Calls

A loud, rhythmic whip-poor-will, repeated over and over, at night.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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