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eastern whip-poor-will

eastern whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)
Photo © Lennie Kaylor

Features and Behaviors

The eastern whip-poor-will averages nine and one-half inches in length. Its body feathers are brown with darker marks. Tail feather patches are white in the male and buff-colored in the female. The mouth is large with a small bill. The wings are rounded.

The eastern whip-poor-will is a common migrant and summer resident statewide. It winters from the southern and southeastern United States to Panama. Spring migrants begin arriving in Illinois in March. Nesting takes place from May through June. This bird nests on the ground in open areas of woodlands or along woodland edges, laying eggs on oak leaves. Two white eggs with faint spots are incubated by the female over a 19‐day incubation period. One brood is raised per year. The bird may return to the same location year after year to nest. Fall migration starts in August. The whip‐poor‐will lives in woodlands. Its “whip‐poor‐will” vocalization is how it attained its common name. This bird calls most often at dawn and dusk. It feeds by flying over brushy pastures and along woodland edges, catching insects in its large mouth.

Reasons for Concern

Habitat loss and fragmentation are major concerns for this species. Fire suppression is a main cause of habitat loss. Fire would provide more open woodland habitat.

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae

Illinois Status: common, native