Whip-poor-willCaprimulgus vociferus Wilson
Status Rare in summer. Breeds. It has occurred in all mainland counties, but the only Cape Breton Island report is of one at Port Hawkesbury in late May 1975 (F. Robertson). It first arrives in May (since 1960, average 16 May, earliest 7 May; an earlier arrival was on 4 May 1942). Reports after the breeding season are rare as it generally does not sing then. The latest fall sighting was on 11 October 1974; anomalously, one was heard singing at Wilmot, Annapolis County, on 31 October and 1 November 1971 (T. Hawkins) and another was found recently dead at Pubnico, Yarmouth County, on 1 November 1979.
Description Length: 22-25 cm. Adult male: Top of head dark grayish brown with fine black stripes; back similar but mottled as well; primaries black, barred with cinnamon; tail mottled and barred with black and light gray or buffy; three outer tail feathers on each side are white halfway out to ends; narrow white band across upper breast; face tawny; breast dark, finely mottled with light buff; belly light buff, barred with dark brown or black; stiff bristles at base of bill. Adult female: Similar but band on upper breast is more cinnamon than white, and there is no white on three outer tail feathers, these being narrowly tipped with light brown.
Breeding Nest: None worthy of the name, eggs being laid on the ground among dry leaves in woods or thickets. Eggs: 2; dull white, faintly marked with pale lilac or brown spots. The first nest recorded in Nova Scotia, containing two eggs, was discovered by Clarence Mason in the Waverley Game Sanctuary, Halifax County, in late June 1930. On a second visit on 30 June, he found the eggs just hatching. Another nest was found by Hugh Bigg on 9 June 1942 at La Have Lake, Annapolis County. The bird was sitting on the usual two eggs and did not flush until underfoot.
Range Breeds from the southeastern part of the Prairie Provinces east to Nova Scotia and south to the northern parts of the Gulf States and Mexico. Winters from the southern states to Central America.
Remarks Many have heard this bird in Nova Scotia, but relatively few have actually seen it. Its day begins as darkness approaches and, unlike its cousin the nighthawk to which it bears a close resemblance, it prefers low elevations for feeding and perching. Its favoured haunt is a bushy pasture or open woodland where, having chosen a suitable boulder or other low perch, it gives forth its familiar call, whip-poor-will, in rapid and clearly enunciated repetitions.
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