The Whip-poor-will or whippoorwill, Caprimulgus vociferus, is a medium-sized (22-27 cm) nightjar from North and Central America. The Whip-poor-will is commonly heard within its range, but less often seen. It is named onomatopoeically after its call
This bird is sometimes confused with the related Chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis) which has a similar but lower-pitched and slower call.
Adults have mottled plumage: the upperparts are grey, black and brown; the lower parts are grey and black. They have a very short bill and a black throat. Males have a white patch below the throat and white tips on the outer tail feathers; in the female, these parts are light brown.
The Whip-poor-will is becoming locally rare. Larry Penny has recorded a 97% decline since 1983 in New York state. Several reasons for the decline are proposed, like habitat destruction, predation by feral cats and dogs, and poisoning by insecticides, but the actual causes remain elusive. Still, the species as a whole is not considered globally threatened due to its huge range.
Due to the haunting, ethereal song, the Whip-poor-will is among the most frequently evoked symbols of the rural USA. It is mentioned in popular culture including works such as:
Barn Burning by William Faulkner