Bird Bio: Eastern Whippoorwill
The eastern whippoorwill is a scrappy little bird that boasts such excellent camouflage it doesn’t even need to build a nest for its brood.
The brindled birds are famous for their distinctive call that’s echoed in their name. Feeding primarily at night, the carnivorous birds subsist exclusively on insects such as moths, ants, bees, fireflies, weevils and scavenger beetles. They begin searching for food 30 minutes after sunset and stop when it gets too dark for them to see. The birds’ eyes are equipped with a reflective structure behind the retina that allows them to see insects’ silhouettes against the sky, assisting in their nighttime dining forays.
Eastern whippoorwills avoid large, uninterrupted forests covered with dense canopies. Their preferred breeding grounds are dry deciduous or evergreen deciduous forests with minimal underbrush. The birds’ feathers so closely match the brownish-gray leaf litter of their breeding grounds that they don’t even bother building nests, preferring to hatch their eggs directly on the ground and then move nestlings around as they grow to avoid predators.
Keep an ear open for the haunting whippoorwill call next time you’re enjoying the forests of the eastern United States. For more info on these plentiful yet interesting birds, check out allaboutbirds.org.