Caprimulgus carolinensis
A Chuck-will's-widow specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Named for its onomatopoeic nighttime song, the Chuck-will’s Widow is far more likely to be heard than seen. This nightjar is mottled brown overall with a white throat and large eyes. If seen, the Chuck-will’s-widow may be separated from other nightjars by its large size (12 inches) and indistinct white tail patches. Males and females are similar to one another in all seasons. The Chuck-will’s-widow breeds in the eastern and southern United States from Long Island south to Florida and from the Mid-Atlantic west to central Oklahoma. In winter, this species may be found in south Florida, Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies. The Chuck-will’s-widow is mostly absent from the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. In summer, the Chuck-will’s-widow breeds in deciduous or mixed deciduous and evergreen woodland, where they nest on the ground and roost pressed close to low branches. In winter, this species may be found in tropical forests and scrub habitats. The Chuck-will’s-widow mainly eats flying insects, but has been observed catching and swallowing small birds whole while on migration. Due to its coloration and densely vegetated habitat, the Chuck-will’s-widow is difficult to see during the day. Often, birdwatchers discover Chuck-will’s-widows on their nests by almost tripping over them while walking through the woods. Chuck-will’s-widows are more easily observed feeding at dusk, when they may be seen scooping up insects in their beaks while flying low to the ground near woodland edges. This species is primarily active at dusk or dawn, but may also forage in the afternoon or late at night.

DC Information

Found in summer and fall (April to September) in the southern part of this region in open fields and wood margins. Heard more often than seen, this bird is named for its call. Breeds from May to July. Male has white in the tail, female does not.

Specimen Information

Date:  5/20/1894
Collected By:  Brent M Robinson
Locality:  Pellicios Creek
Sex:  Male
Catalog ID:  133123

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC38601 Antrostomus carolinensis (Chuck-will's-widow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC38602 Antrostomus carolinensis (Chuck-will's-widow)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC38603 Antrostomus carolinensis (Chuck-will's-widow)