- 11–12.6 in
- 22.8–24 in
- 2.3–6.6 oz
- Engoulevent de Caroline (French)
- Guabairo mayor, Tapacaminos carolinense, Tapacamino de paso, Guabairo Americano (Spanish)
- The Chuck-will 's-widow hunts actively by flying low over the ground in search of insects. Occasionally, small birds and bats are included in its diet.
Chuck-will's-widows breed in pine, oak-hickory, and other forests of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. They tend to live in more open areas than the similar Whip-poor-will. In winter you can find them in brush, woodlands, hedgerows, thickets, and fields as far south as Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean.
Chuck-will's-widows catch flying insects at night. They eat mainly moths, beetles—including June beetles, scarabs, longhorned beetles, and click beetles—and dragonflies. Very occasionally, they have been seen eating birds such as Hooded, Palm, Yellow, and Cape May Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Swamp Sparrow, Carolina Wren, Cuban Emerald (a hummingbird), as well as bats.
- Clutch Size
- 1–4 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 1 broods
- Egg Length
- 1.3–1.6 in
- Egg Width
- 0.9–1.1 in
- Incubation Period
- 20–21 days
- Nestling Period
- 16–17 days
- Egg Description
- White to gray, with variable dark markings.
- Condition at Hatching
- Weak but with eyes open, covered in long, light-brown down, able to walk.
Chuck-will's-widows don't build nests; they simply lay their eggs on the ground among dead leaves, pine needles, or bare dirt. Incubating adults are incredibly well camouflaged and virtually invisible unless you nearly step on them.
Nest sites are typically in dense thickets near openings such as road edges or forest clearings.
The Chuck-will's-widow's most apparent behavior is its incessant calling at night—the most typical experience people have with these birds. They do most of their foraging at dusk and dawn—though during full moons or under streetlights, when visibility is good, they may forage much of the night. They are buoyant and maneuverable in flight, catching flying insects with a short dive or chase followed by a snap of the bill. Long, stiff feathers around the mouth, called rictal bristles, help guide prey into their very wide gapes. Territorial males chase each other up to a quarter-mile while making a growling call. In courtship, males droop their wings, spread their tail feathers, ruffle their feathers and puff themselves up while calling to the female.
This species is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action. Breeding Bird Survey results suggest a decline in eastern U.S. populations of about 1.8 percent per year between 1966 and 1991. But since Chuck-will's-widows aren't active during most of the day, they are difficult to survey. Interested individuals can help count nightjars by joining the United States Nightjar Survey organized by the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary College. Chuck-will's-widows may be vulnerable to pesticide use since they have such an insectivorous diet. They are also very sensitive to disturbance at their nests.
- Straight, C. A., and R. J. Cooper. 2000. Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis). In The Birds of North America, No. 499 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.