Antrostomus Vociferus – Eastern Whip-Poor-Will

Antrostomus Vociferus - Eastern Whip-Poor-Will found in the US

In North America, the eastern whip-poor-will, Antrostomus vociferus is a medium-sized nightjar about 22–27 cm in length. The whip-poor-will may be heard often across its habitat, although it is less frequently observed due to its concealment. It is titled onomatopoeically after the song that inspired it.

Quick Overview: Latin Name – Common Name
Body size: Around 9-10 in (23-25 cm) and a weight of 57 g (2 oz)
Main colors: Gray, Brown, Black, White
Range: Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: June, July, August, September
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Eastern whip-poor-will Description

Birds of prey of the Whip-poor-will family are medium-sized birds with a large, round head and sturdy chest that tapers to a long tail and wings, giving them a notably front-heavy appearance. They are found throughout eastern North America. The upper parts are gray-brown-black speckled with pale gray-black underparts. Black throat, white brows, and neckband Long, rounded tail with huge white corner patches This species and the Mexican Whip-poor-will were once united.

Antrostomus Vociferus - Eastern Whip-Poor-Will found in the US
Antrostomus Vociferus – Eastern Whip-Poor-Will. Source: Wikipedia


These birds have a length of 9-10 in (23-25 cm) and a weight of 57 g (2 oz). Their wings could range from 16-19.5 in (41-50 cm).


To obtain their meal, whip-poor-wills must fly at night. They feed mostly on night-flying insects, although they will also consume insects that do not fly at night. They are known to eat a variety of insects including moths, mosquitoes, flying beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and crickets, although moths account for the majority of their food intake.


Breeding habitat for the whip-poor-will is often found on uplands, particularly in deciduous and mixed woodland near to big clearings (Veit and Petersen 1963). According to DeGraaf and Rudis (1983), they like “…open, dry, mostly deciduous woodlands…with well-spaced trees and a low canopy.”


Forages at night, particularly at dusk and dawn, as well as on starry evenings and nights. In order to find food, the bird would fly out from a tree perch or fly slowly and steadily across a forest or clearing, sometimes even fluttering up from the ground to catch insects. Grazes insects in its broad, open mouth before swallowing them whole.

Eastern whip-poor-will Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Caprimulgiformes
  • Family: Caprimulgidae
  • Genus: Antrostomus
  • Species: Antrostomus vociferus

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the summer season (June – September).

Distribution of the Eastern whip-poor-will in the USA

It is more common to hear than to see the Eastern Whip-poor-will, although it is easily identified by its unique and crepuscular cry. During the mating season, the Whip-poor-will may be seen in large numbers throughout the Eastern United States, from southern Canada to the northern section of the Gulf States in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Georgia.

The Eastern whip-poor-will can be found in the following states in the United States – Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

Antrostomus Vociferus – Eastern Whip-Poor-Will

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