Living With Us… Eastern Whippoorwill

You may have heard their distinct call in the summer and fall. A repeated trill that sounds like ‘Whip-poor-will” over and over again. But did you know that Eastern Whip-poor-wills are on Ontario’s Species At Risk list? These ground-living birds are currently listed as ‘Threatened’, which means they’re not endangered yet, but they are likely to be if we don’t take steps to protect them. The Eastern Whip-poor-will is a medium sized bird that is covered in mottled brown/black/white plumage that make it very difficult to spot when they on the forest floor, which is where they lay their eggs and spend most of their day. If a whip-poor-will is spotted by a predator, they will often fake an injury, slowly leading the predator away from their eggs. Once the predator is far enough away, they will take flight and return home.Whip-poor-wills are nocturnal and fly at night to catch their prey. They are known to eat mosquitoes, flying beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and crickets, but moths make up most of their diet. They are incredibly useful to have around to keep the insect population down! Because they hunt at night, they have large eyes, adapted to see in the dark. Whip-poor-wills are migratory birds, that means that during the winter, they fly south to Central and South America where it’s warm, returning in the spring to breed in the Eastern US and Canada.

Fun Fact: Eastern Whip-poor-wills lay their eggs in phase with the lunar cycle, so that they hatch on average 10 days before a full moon. When the moon is near full, the adults can forage the entire night and capture large quantities of insects to feed to their nestlings!

To-date, Whip-poor-will have been recorded in Aroland First Nation, If you see or hear Whip-Poor-Wills in your area, please contact Gord Parker at our Four Rivers office.