One New England legend says the Whip-poor-will can sense a person’s soul departing, and capture it as it leaves. Native American lore considered the singing of these birds a death omen. The only things whips actually capture are insects.
Like other nightbirds, their cries are believed to be omens of death or misfortune in some tribal traditions. In the Mohegan tribe, the cries of the whippoorwill are associated with the Little People, who are benign but mysterious nature spirits.
Partners in Flight lists them as a “Common Bird in Steep Decline”, and the North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates a 69% drop in populations between 1966 and 2010.
Nesting. Nesting activity may be timed so that adults are feeding young primarily on nights when moon is more than half full, when moonlight makes foraging easier for them. Male sings at night to defend territory and to attract a mate.
About the Whippoorwill
Whippoorwills do their courting after sunset. The male’s spring ritual is an elaborate one, involving strutting, throat-puffing, and a variety of noises designed to convince the silent female that he is the best mate among a forest swarming with calling males.
A whippoorwill is a medium-sized brown bird that is mainly nocturnal and can be found in North and Central America. It’s fairly rare to see a whippoorwill, since it mainly flies, eats, and sings after dark and sleeps during the day. The speckled brown whippoorwill has a somewhat flat head — it resembles a small owl.
Common Nighthawks are a colder gray-brown unlike the richer colors of Eastern Whip-poor-wills. They also have white bars on the wings that whip-poor-wills lack and they are much more likely to be seen in daylight, in open areas, and higher in the sky than Whip-poor-wills.
Birds soar as spiritual messengers between the Earth and the sky. Revered and reflected by Native American cultures on both petroglyphs and modern ceramics, they flutter across objects both functional and decorative.
The bird’s range includes the eastern United States west to Iowa, Missouri and northern Arkansas. The southern edge of their range runs through northern Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina. As of yet, the whippoorwill has not been listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois.
Eastern Whip-poor-wills migrate to Mexico and Central America for the winter, apparently traveling mostly over land to get there. In spring they arrive in breeding grounds between late March and mid-May.
“The Whip-poor-wills now begin to sing in earnest about half an hour before sunrise, as if making haste to improve the short time that is left them. … They sing for several hours in the early part of the night, then sing again just before sunrise.”
Eastern Whip-poor-wills are fairly common birds, but their numbers declined by close to 2% per year between 1966 and 2019, resulting in a cumulative decline of about 61% during that time, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
These birds forage at night, catching insects on the wing, and normally sleep during the day on the ground or on low-lying branches. Named after their song, Eastern whip-poor-wills are commonly heard within their range, but less often seen because of their camouflage which provides protection from predation.
The whip-poor-will got its name from the male’s familiar call—a three-note series that sounds like it’s wailing, “whip poor will.” Learn more.
goatsucker, nightjar, caprimulgid.
In fact, whip-poor-wills, Chuck-will’s-widows, and their kin have a history of inspiring fear. These species belong to the family Caprimulgidae, officially known as nightjars—a lovely term supposedly derived from the “‘jarring’ sounds made by the male when the female is brooding.”
Eastern Whip-poor-will is smaller and grayer than Chuck-will’s-widow. Whip-poor-will’s outer tail feathers have white tips, visible when the tail is spread in flight. Chuck-will’s-widow shows white only on the inner half of these feathers, so the tail appears much less white overall.
Calls. Barn Owls don’t hoot the way most owls do; instead, they make a long, harsh scream that lasts about 2 seconds.
The symbol of a bluebird as the harbinger of happiness is found in many cultures and may date back thousands of years.
Cranes are revered in Asia as symbols of long life. Cuckoos are welcomed as a sign of spring in Europe and are considered omens of a happy marriage.
The hamsa (Sanskrit: हंस haṃsa or hansa) is an aquatic migratory bird, referred to in ancient Sanskrit texts which various scholars have interpreted as being based on the goose, the swan, or even the flamingo. Its image is used in Indian and Southeast Asian culture as a spiritual symbol and a decorative element.
God may send you spiritual messages through your daily interaction with birds. Wansbury writes: “These messages are words of wisdom and advice, and they can help us to identify talents we are not using, or the negative beliefs and thought patterns that are holding us back.