Stillwater News Press

Sports Columns

May 10, 2014

Outdoor Almanac: The Nightjars

STILLWATER, Okla. — If you have been outdoors at dusk during the past week, you have likely heard a repetitive call from a bird called a chuck-will’s-widow.

This cryptic species spends the day roosting in leaf litter, but as light fades, they begin to call incessantly. Fortunately, the call is a pleasant addition to late dinners on the deck.

The chuck-will’s-widow is onomatopoeic, as it is named for the three-note call it makes. Similar to other “nightjars,” it is primarily active at night, feeding on flying insects.

There are three other species of nightjars found in Oklahoma, including the common poorwill, the whip-poor-will and the common nighthawk. But it is the chuck-will’s-widow that is most commonly heard in the central portion of the state.

Chuck-will’s-widows spend the winter in Central and South America and their arrival in May signals summer is upon us. Though they are often heard calling from dry oak forests throughout much of Oklahoma, they are seldom seen. Occasionally they sit on roadsides at night and their reflective eyes betray their presence to oncoming drivers.

Very rarely they are flushed from the forest floor during the day, although they typically will not fly unless approached closely, which provides a startle. The similar common nighthawk is much more likely to be seen as they often roost on top of wooden fence posts in open country and sometimes forage for insects early or late in the day.

The smaller common poorwill is found in western Oklahoma shrublands.  Its two-note call is described as “poor will.” In eastern Oklahoma, the whip-poor-will can occasionally be found in dense forests uttering a three-note call similar to the chuck-will’s widow.  

While rarely observed, the nightjars are mysterious additions to the fauna of Oklahoma that provide seasonal charm to our warm summer nights.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports Columns
Buy & Share Photos
NewsPress e-Edition
NewsPress Specials
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
NDN Video
'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
Must Read