Sunday, April 5, 2009


Near dawn this morning, I heard—for the first time this year—the call of a chuck-will's-widow.

The call, which is much louder than the whip-poor-will's call, sounds just like the bird's name: chuck-wills-WIDow, chuck-wills-WIDow.

Both the whip-poor-will and chuck-will's-widow are goatsuckers (family Caprimulgidae). These nocturnal birds are insect eaters with erratic flight patterns; I've heard them described as "mouths with wings."

By day, the birds rest on the ground or on tree limbs; at night, they hunt for food. I've never seen one at rest, only in erratic flight at twilight—hunting bugs.

Florida gets a lot of migrant bird species. While we have a small year-round population of the magnificent sandhill cranes, we get thousands of cranes as winter visitors. Then, after the cranes leave in February and March, we wait for the arrival of the chuck-will's-widows, who spend their summers with us.

It's always exciting to hear the first call of the chuck-will's-widow because then we know that warmer weather is not far away.

Most of the pictures I found on the internet were copyrighted; the image, above, is of a chuck-will's-widow in the Florida Keys.

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