The Eastern Whip-poor-will is heard more often than it is seen, but its distinctive and crepuscular call (“whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will! whip-poor-will!”) is unmistakable. During the breeding season, the Whip-poor-will occupies most of the Eastern United States, from southern Canada down to the northern portion of the Gulf States (Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia). Its northern limit extends into central eastern Saskatchewan. Its breeding habitat is deciduous or mixed forests with open areas such as sand or rock barrens, regenerating forests or other disturbed forests. The forest structure appears more important than its species composition.
The overwintering range includes Florida and coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico, eastern Mexico and south to Guatemala and Honduras, but the southern portion of wintering range of the species is poorly studied. The winter habitat is similar to the breeding habitat; mixed wood and broadleaf evergreen forest with open areas.
This species has decline of 69% since the 1970s. Reasons for this decline are unknown, but threats include habitat loss, decline in insect abundance due to pesticides, predation by cats and raccoons and collision with vehicles.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Temperate eastern forests
Wintering: Tropical evergreen forests, Tropical dry forests
Breeding: Changing Forest Conditions, Contaminants, Urbanization, Climate Change
Wintering: Changing Forest Conditions, Tropical Deforestation, Contaminants, Urbanization, Climate Change
Population Loss Since 1970: -69%
Urgency/Half Life: N/A
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2019-1 – Near Threatened
U.S. Conservation Status: N/A
Canadian Conservation Status: Threatened (SARA)
Birds of Conservation Concern: USFWS – Bird of Conservation Concern
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half-Life|
|Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (B)||10%||-80%||***|
|Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (B)||31%||-71%||***|
|Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture (B)||8%||>100%||***|
|Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Region Joint Venture (B)||15%||-77%||***|
|Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (B/W)||25%; AI = 5||-69%||***|
|East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture (B/W)||4%||-43%||***|
*** indicates insufficient or unreliable data to calculate a regional long-term change or half-life estimate.
(B) indicates the region supports a significant breeding population of this species.
(W) indicates the region supports a significant wintering population of this species.
AI=# indicates the area importance for wintering populations on a scale from 1 to 5.
Adopt bird-friendly farming practices:
- Reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals
- Practice pasture rotation and a low livestock to pasture ratio
- Use flushing bars when harvesting
Report your observation to eBird
Participate in a monitoring project:
Species Conservation Plans:
Recovery Strategy for the Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) in Canada (2018)
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
Wilson, M.D. and B.D. Watts. 2008. Landscape configuration effects on distribution and
abundance of Whip-poor-wills. Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 120: 778-783.
Wilson, M.D. 2003. Distribution, abundance, and home range of the Whip-poor-will
(Caprimulgus vociferus) in a managed forest landscape. MS. Thesis. College of
William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA.
Birds of North America (BNA) Species Account