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Updated: 06/18/2014 12:23:23AM

Why the whip-poor-will calls

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (DICK DANIELS)

The whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow are known by what their distinctive call sounds like. Both birds are helpful insect eaters. They are seldom seen; their voice is their identifying characteristic. The coloring of both is a blotchy brown and grey, enabling them to blend in with their surroundings.

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A n old farmers’ adage is “when the whip-poor-will calls it’s time to plant the corn.” In Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ autobiographical “Cross Creek” she wrote: “The first whip-poor-will may call in late February or early March. I cannot guarantee his accuracy as a weather prophet, but I have never known frost to come after that first plaintive heart-tearing cry.”

Like many, she did not realize at first that our spring through fall resident bird is not the whip-poor-will, but chuck-will’s-widow. Both birds begin to arrive here in late February to early March. The whip-poor-will is a migrant and stops here only briefly on its way to the northeast and midwest states. It does not nest here. Chuck-will’s-widow breeds here and stays until early October, when they fly south to the West Indies, Mexico, or South America. The whip-poor-will winters in our area south to Honduras.

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