Like other nightjars, the Whip-poor-will is cryptically plumaged to blend in with leaf litter and the bark of tree branches where this bird roosts during the day. At rest, the tail extends well beyond the wing tips. Most adults appear grayish overall, with extensive barring and spotting in buff, brown, and black. Some individuals have a more rufous cast overall. The throat and upper breast are blackish, separated by a white of buff band across the throat. The lower belly and undertail coverts fade to buff. Males have broad white tips to the outer three sets of tail feathers. Females show narrow buffy tips to these feathers. In flight, the wings appear rounded.
Length: 22 (cm) Wingspan: 41 (cm)
The male of the nominate subspecies gives a clear Whip-poor-WEEL call at night. The subspecies in the Southwest gives a softer, gravelly call: whrrp-pr-wirr.
Forests with limited understory and adjacent open areas for foraging.
Spends the day roosting on the forest floor or on branches. Nests on the ground.
Active at dusk and dawn. Will also feed during moonlit nights. Captures insects in the air.
Expanded Life History
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