Fun Whippoorwill Facts For Kids

Aashita Dhingra
Jan 12, 2023 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Aug 27, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Continue reading to learn some fascinating facts about the whippoorwill bird!
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.1 Min

The whippoorwill or the Whip-poor-will is a North American bird native to the Eastern part of the United States of America and Southeast Canada. They are migratory birds, and hence, can also be found in parts of South America during the winter.

Whip-poor-wills are known for their brown bodies that camouflage against the forest and their distinct calls that they have been named after, "Whip-poor-pool". This sound is also called the whi-poor-wills song or the Whippoorwill Holler.

Whip-poor-wills are nocturnal in nature, and forage for food at night.

Their main diet consists of large insects like moths and wasps, and smaller insects like ants and beetles. Whip-poor-wills are especially active during the full moon, foraging for food from when the sun sets to when it rises.

Whip-poor-wills are also known for their softer song, referred to as the quirt, which they use when they are excited or stressed. The quirt is used by these birds when they are migrating for the winter or when they are protecting their territories.

For more relatable content, check out these nightingale facts and catbird facts for kids.

Whippoorwill Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a whippoorwill?

The whippoorwill bird is a bird belonging to the caprimulgidae family. They are north American birds.

What class of animal does a whippoorwill belong to?

These north American birds belong to the class Aves.

How many whippoorwills are there in the world?

There are currently an estimated 1.2 million birds of this species in North America and some parts of Mexico.

Where do whippoorwills live?

The whippoorwill bird is native to North America, specifically the eastern part of the United States (such as New York) and the southeastern part of Canada. They are also found across parts of Mexico and Costa Rica.

What is a whippoorwill's habitat?

The whippoorwill habitat consists of foresty areas such as deciduous woodlands and mixed pine oak woodlands. This bird species is known for living in new, young forests, specifically dry woody areas at the borders of large fields and open areas.

Who do whippoorwills live with?

Whippoorwills are a solitary species, and they live on their own. However, during mating season, males and females interact, and females stay with their young while they nest until they are old enough to feed themselves and fly.

How long does a whippoorwill live?

This bird species has an average lifespan of around 15 years.

How do they reproduce?

This bird species is oviparous in nature, which means that they reproduce by laying eggs. Unlike most birds, this bird species do not make a nest for their young.

Instead, they lay their eggs directly on the forest floor, around trees or in bushes. Even though there is no nest material, the eggs are well camouflaged on the forest floor by leaves and branches. They breed twice a year and lay two eggs each time.

What is their conservation status?

This bird species has a very widespread and abundant population. As a result, they have been classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Whippoorwill Fun Facts

What do whippoorwills look like?

Eastern whip-poor-wills are medium sized birds with yellow/brown feathers and wings, deep greyish brown patterns along their bodies, and a round head with a puffy chest. The yellow brown colors of their bodies allow them to camouflage perfectly with the forest habitat around them. Hence, even though they may be heard quite distinctively, they are rarely seen.

Antrostomus vociferus, Whippoorwill on a rock

How cute are they?

Eastern Whip-poor-wills are medium sized birds that are considered to be quite cute, especially due to their distinctive call at nights.

How do they communicate?

Eastern whip-poor-wills communicate by means of auditory signals such as their famous call. They are famous for their unique three tone calls at night.

How big is a whippoorwill?

Eastern whip-poor-wills are medium sized birds, with a length in the range of. This makes them the same size as a night hawk.

How fast can a whippoorwill fly?

The exact speed of the Whip-poor-will is not known.

How much does a whippoorwill weigh?

The average whippoorwill weighs around 43-64 g (0.094-0.141 lb).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the adult males and females of this species. They are simply referred to as male or female.

What would you call a baby whippoorwill?

Babies of this species are referred to as juveniles or chicks.

What do they eat?

Whip-poor-wills are foragers and their main diet consists of insects like moths, mosquitoes, worms, ants, wasps, beetles, and other smaller insects.

Are they dangerous?

No they are not dangerous. They are harmless birds that mostly keep to themselves.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they would not make good pets. These birds are highly protective of their territory, and require a large forest habitat. Hence, it is not advisable to keep these birds as pets.

Did you know...

The whip-poor-will is a nocturnal bird, which means that they are most active at night. They also use their famous Whippoorwill sound at night time while they are flying.

They fly very slowly during the night, flapping their wings intentionally and progressively. During the day, these birds sit in their nesting areas, lethargic and mostly motionless. As soon as the sun sets, they immediately set off to forage for food.

These birds usually forage for food early evening or early morning when it is semi-dark, but not completely dark. Even though they are nocturnal in nature, they cannot see in pitch darkness, and hence, forage for food when the sun is setting or rising.

However, on a full moon night, they chase after insects like moths the whole night, guided by the light of the moon.

Although these birds are mostly solitary, during breeding season, males and females become very active with each other. The female lays her eggs on the forest floor, the ground near trees and bushes.

The female looks over the eggs for eight days, until the juveniles molt and develop feathers.

After this, she hands over the care of the juveniles to the male while she lays two more eggs in a nearby location.

The male is often very defensive of the nest and his territory, often making loud sounds and chasing off any new comers and possible predators in the area. The female also lures away predators from the nesting area by faking injuries and moving as far as possible from the juveniles.

Different types of whippoorwill

There are over 120 subspecies belonging to the Cul family of birds. However, there are six main subspecies of this bird.

The Caprimulgus vociferus vociferus or the North American Whip-poor-will is found in North America.

The Caprimulgus vociferus arizonae or the Mexican Whip-poor-will is found in Mexico and Southwest USA.

The Caprimulgus vociferus setosus is found in Eastern Mexico.

The Caprimulgus vociferus oaxacae is found in Southwestern Mexico.

The Caprimulgus vociferus chiapense is found in Southeastern Mexico and Guatemala

The Caprimulgus vociferus vermiculatus is found in El Salvador and Honduras.

The whippoorwill's call

These birds are known for their three tone call, which sounds a lot like "Whip-poor-will", which is what they are named after. This Whippoorwill call is loud and distinctive, and is most commonly used by adult males to define their territory.

In addition to this, they also let out a softer call that sounds like "quirt". This is to express either excitement or stress. These quirt calls are most commonly used by territorial birds during winter nights.

They may keep repeating these calls 400 times in a row without stopping. Other birds that make a lot of noise at night include the Common Loon, Northern mockingbird, and Eastern screech owl.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these frigate bird facts and giant kingfisher facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable birds nest coloring pages.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

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Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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