Eastern Whip-poor-will

The Eastern Whip-poor-will is a cryptically plumbed nightjar that is active during the twilight 
hours and on moonlit nights. By day, these birds remain stationary
and blend into day roosts on the forest floor or perched on a tree limb. Males sing an onomatopoeic song to defend territories and
attract mates. They typically lay two eggs directly on the leaf litter.
 Once the first eggs hatch and young start to mature, females depart to start a second nest while the male continues the care of the
first brood. Adult males will employ a hovering, tail-flashing display when another male enters his territory or when an intruder approaches the nest site. Both males and females will perform wing-dragging distraction displays to lead o predators. Visit portions of your block with good potential habitat. Foraging habitat consists of low-elevation open areas (forest openings, agricultural areas, blueberry barrens, dirt roads, etc.) on the margins of dry and open forests, particularly those in riparian areas with sandy soils. Pine-oak forest, pine barrens, pine-hemlock-hardwood forest all serve as suitable nesting and roosting habitat for this species in Maine. Visits should be conducted after the moon has risen and is unobscured by clouds. There are three windows to seek out and listen for these birds during 2019 (based on the lunar cycle): May 15th to May 26th, June 10th to June 25th, and July 9th to 10th.

Safe Dates: May 25th to July 25th (applicable for only the S or H codes).


Breeding Evidence: Hearing vocalizations of birds is the most likely encounter with this species during the breeding season. All potential Eastern Whip-poor-will breeding records should be carefully documented. If you hear one in the appropriate breeding timeframe and in appropriate breeding habitat, use code S. The simplest way to upgrade this to a “Probable Breeder” is to listen again at the same location 7 or more days later to upgrade the code to S7.

Image courtesy of Tom Murray.

Audio courtesy of Jim Holmes.

© 2019 Logan Parker

The Maine Nightjar Monitoring Project is a part of the Maine Natural History Observatory