Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

previous  | next

Whip-poor-will Caprimulgus vociferus


enlarge +

credit: Louis Agassiz Fuertes

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images

2 articles:

Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Caprimulgidae, Nightjars view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has gray-brown plumage overall, but subtle and intricate patterns of black and buff create impression of tree bark. Flight feathers and wing coverts are reddish brown. Note white half collar (sometimes hidden) separating blackish throat from dark brown chest band. Outer tail feathers are extensively white toward tip. ADULT FEMALE Similar, but outer tail feathers are tipped buff (not white). JUVENILE Similar to adult.

Dimensions Length: 10" (25 cm)

Habitat Common summer visitor (mainly May-Sep) to dry mixed or deciduous forests with clearings. Winters mainly in Central America but also Florida.

Observation Tips Presence is easiest to detect by listening for song.

Range Great Lakes, Western Canada, Southwest, New England, Eastern Canada, Southeast, California, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Plains

Voice Song (delivered after dark) is a liquid Whip-poo-weel, the middle syllable slightly stuttering; call is a liquid quip.

Discussion Long-winged, long-tailed bird with a large head and huge gape, with which it engulfs flying insects. Nocturnal, feeding mainly on moths and beetles. Eyes are large, but hidden by partly-closed eyelids in daytime. Beautifully patterned plumage provides superb camouflage when resting on tree branch or fallen leaves in daytime. Sexes are separable.