Eastern Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferus)

Eastern Whip-poor-will

[order] CAPRIMULGIFORMES | [family] Caprimulgidae | [latin] Caprimulgus vociferus | [UK] Eastern Whip-poor-will | [FR] Engoulevent bois-pourri | [DE] Schwarzkehl-Nachtschwalbe | [ES] Chotacabras Cuerporruin, Chotacabras Griton (Cr), Pucuyo Griton (HN) | [NL] Whip-poorwill


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Caprimulgus vociferus NA c, e se USA, MA
Caprimulgus vociferus vociferus sc and se Canada, e USA to c America

Physical charateristics

A voice in the night woods. When flushed by day, flits away on rounded wings like a large brown moth. Male shows large white tail patches; in female these are buffy.

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 22 cm size max.: 27 cm
incubation min.: 19 days incubation max.: 21 days
fledging min.: 14 days fledging max.: 16 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 2  


North America : Central, East


Leafy woodlands; in West, pine-oak woods in mountains.
In the East, breeds in rich moist woodlands, either deciduous or mixed; seems to avoid purely coniferous forest. In the Southwest, breeds in mountain forest, mostly in pine-oak zone. Winter habitats are also in wooded areas.


Nesting activity may be timed so adults are feeding young primarily on nights when moon is more than half full, when moonlight makes foraging easier. Male sings at night to defend territory and attract mate. Courtship behavior not well known; male approac
hes 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.
Eggs: 2. Whitish, marked with brown and gray. Incubation is apparently mostly by female, 19-20 days.
Apparently cared for by both parents. Adults feed young by regurgitating insects. Age of young at first flight about 20 days. 1 or 2 broods per year; female may lay second clutch while male is still caring for young from first brood.

Feeding habits

Insects. Feeds on night-flying insects, especially moths, also beetles, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, many others.
Forages at night, especially near 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 w
ide, gaping mouth and swallows them whole. Evidently has good vision in low light conditions.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Eastern Whip-poor-will status Least Concern


Eastern Canada, southwestern United States to Honduras. Winters from Gulf states to Honduras. Migration: Many spend the winter in 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. Southwestern birds are probably only short-distance migrants.

Distribution map

Eastern Whip-poor-will distribution range map

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