Whippoorwill, a bird named for its call—a clear, loudly whistled whip-poor-will that is sometimes repeated hundreds of times, almost without pause. The whippoorwill breeds in eastern North America, from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico. It winters from the Gulf to Central America. The female usually lays two eggs on the ground. They are white with brown and purplish markings.
The whippoorwill grows to be about 10 inches (25 cm) long. Its plumage is mottled, streaked, and barred with brown, buff, black, gray, and white. The bird pursues moths and other insects at night. It catches prey in its small-beaked mouth, which is unusually wide and is edged with bristles. Weak-footed, the whippoorwill does not perch. During the day it squats on the ground or lengthwise on a bough.
A close relative of the whippoorwill is the chuck-will's-widow, which breeds in the southeastern United States and winters from Mexico to Colombia. The chuck-will's-widow resembles the whippoorwill in appearance and habits but grows slightly longer. The nighthawk is another relative of the whippoorwill.
The whippoorwill is Caprimulgus vocifents; the chuck-will's-widow, C. carolinensis. Whippoorwills belong to the goatsucker family, Caprimulgidae.