The Seasonal Almanac: Whippoorwill Habitats

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PHOTO: J.H. ROBINSON/ANIMALS ANIMALS
There seems to be a decline in the numbers of whippoorwills in many places, presumably due to deforestation.

The Seasonal Almanac shares astronomical and nature events, this issue includes information on this elusive bird and whippoorwill habitats . . . the voice of a bird almost never seen but almost always heard.

Here in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey where I
live, the whippoorwill returns from its wintering grounds
along the Southeast coast, Florida, the Gulf Coast and
Mexico and is first heard in mid- to late-April. It leaves
in early September, though I have occasionally heard the
call as late as mid-month. The slightly larger
chuck-will’s-widow has a different, less insistent call and
spends its springs and summers in the southeastern U.S. The
smaller poorwill is found across most of the West. Both
feed during the night, capturing insects while in flight,
and spend most of their daytime hours resting on the forest
floor. Interestingly, the whippoorwill does not construct
nests; it usually lays its eggs on dead leaves or decaying
wood.

There seems to be a decline in the numbers of whippoorwill habitats, presumably due to deforestation. That’s a
great shame and not only because this bird is a marvelous
flyer, but also because it is a living, insect-eating
machine. The call of the whippoorwill carries long
distances, and several birds singing in tandem have been
known to keep folks awake at night. But those of us who
love nature would rather lose sleep than hear the pinewoods
silenced forever of their haunting cry.