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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Whip-poor-will -- Caprimulgus vociferus

RANGE: Breeds from north-central Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba to southern Quebec and Nova Scotia, south to eastern Kansas, northeastern Texas, and northern Louisiana across to central Georgia; and from southern California, southern Nevada, central Arizona, and extreme western Texas south to Mexico. Winters from southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and east-central South Carolina south to Central America.

STATUS: Common; population is declining slightly throughout the breeding range.

HABITAT: In the East, prefers open hardwood or mixed woodlands of pine, oak, and beech, particularly younger stands in fairly dry habitats; also favors stands with scattered clearings. In the Southwest, frequents densely wooded slopes of oak and pine in canyons and mountains.

NEST: Lays eggs on dead leaves on well-drained ground, usually in areas of partial shade where there is no undergrowth. Often nests among trees at the edge of a clearing or path, sometimes laying eggs in the shade of a small bush.

FOOD: Feed nocturnally, often pursuing insects attracted to lights near buildings in rural areas. Feeds in flight on moths, beetles, mosquitoes, ants, grasshoppers, June bugs, gnats, and other insects.

REFERENCES: DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Johnsgard 1979, Raynor 1941, Tate and Tate 1982, Terres 1980.

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