The Elusive Whippoorwill: Night-Bird of the Woods (Video)

Photo by Nicolas Pratlong

It only comes out after dark and hides within the trees…ladies and gentleman introducing the whippoorwill. The whippoorwill is a nocturnal bird and enjoys feasting on bugs at night. Luckily, one of our cameras caught this fascinating bird (actually two) in flight hunting for insects under the deck of our cabin. They can fly up to 15 feet off the ground, sweeping insects into their very large mouths. 

(c) Debra Roinestad, The Comfy Cabin, 2023

The whippoorwill has a distinct chirping sound that stands out from any other bird that you might hear in the forest. The chirping is very rhythmic, and sounds as if they are saying their exact name, “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will.”

Credit: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission

58. The Chimney Swallow (Chætura pelasgia) 59. The Whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferus) 60. The Nighthhawk (Chordeiles americanus) illustration from Zoology of New York (1842-1844) by James Ellsworth De Kay. Original from The New York Public Library.

In Native American tradition, their is a belief that the cry of the Whippoorwill is a symbol of misfortune or death. The Mohegan Tribe feels different; they believe that the Whippoorwill is the sound of ‘Little People’ who are ‘Nature Spirits’. Read more here. Also, these incredible birds are known as ‘moon birds’ because they lay their eggs with the phases of the moon. Read more here. So, the next time you look up in the sky at night and see the moon, remember the whippoorwill.

Debra Roinestad