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Chuck-wills-widow RWD7.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Caprimulgiformes
Family: Caprimulgidae
Genus: Antrostomus
A. carolinensis
Binomial name
Antrostomus carolinensis
Gmelin, 1789
Antrostomus carolinensis map.svg

Caprimulgus carolinensis

The chuck-will's-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis) is a nocturnal bird of the nightjar family Caprimulgidae. It is found in the southeastern United States near swamps, rocky uplands, and pine woods. It migrates to the West Indies, Central America, and northwestern South America.


This bird is generally confused with the better-known whippoorwill (Antrostomus vociferus),[2] because of their similar calls and unusual names. Though rather closely related, they are two distinct species.


The chuck-will's-widow has a short bill and a long tail typical of the nightjars. It has mottled brownish underparts, a buff throat, reddish-brown feathers lined with black, and brown and white patterning on head and chest. Males have patches of white on their outer tail feathers. It is the largest nightjar in North America. In length, it ranges from 28 to 33 cm (11 to 13 in). The wingspan can range from 58 to 66 cm (23 to 26 in). The body mass of the species is from 66 to 188 g (2.3 to 6.6 oz).[3] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 20.1 to 22.5 cm (7.9 to 8.9 in), the tail is 13 to 15.1 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in), the bill is 1.1 to 1.4 cm (0.43 to 0.55 in) and the tarsus is 1.5 to 1.9 cm (0.59 to 0.75 in).[4]


Its common name derives from its continuous, repetitive song that is often heard at night. This consist of a series of calls with a vibrating middle note between two shorter notes, not much shifting in pitch.[5] It is slower, lower-pitched and less piercing than the song of the whip-poor-will. Alternative names include "Chuckwuts-widow" and "Chip-fell-out-of-a-oak."[6]


It eats primarily insects, particularly those active at night such as moths, beetles, and winged ants. It will also eat small birds and bats, swallowing them whole.[7][8]


Females lay eggs on patches of dead leaves on the ground. The eggs, which are pink with spots of brown and lavender, are subsequently incubated by the female.



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Antrostomus carolinensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2018.
  2. ^ For example, Henninger (1906) combines the old scientific name of C. carolinensis with the common name "Whip-poor-will". As C. carolinensis does not occur in the area discussed, he obviously refers to C. vociferus. In other cases, the specific identity of birds may not be determinable.
  3. ^ Chuck Wills Widow. All About Birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  4. ^ Holyoak, D.T. (2001): Nightjars and their Allies: the Caprimulgiformes. Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York. ISBN 0-19-854987-3.
  5. ^ "Call recording".
  6. ^ Cleere, Nigel (2010). "Appendix 2 – Alternative English Names". Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird and Owlet-nightjars of the World. Old Basing: WILDGuides. pp. 443–447. ISBN 978-1-903657-07-2.
  7. ^ Owre, Oscar (September 1967). "Predation by the Chuck-will's-widow upon migrating warblers" (PDF). Wilson Bulletin. 79 (3): 342.
  8. ^ Thayer, Gerald H (1899). "The Chuck-will's-widow on Shipboard" (PDF). The Auk. 16 (3): 273–276. doi:10.2307/4069463. JSTOR 4069463.


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