Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chuck-will's Widow

A breeding bird of the southeastern United States, the Chuck-will's Widow has been expanding its range north and west. The Oahe Dam, upstream from Pierre, South Dakota, must be about as far north and west as this species can be found. Chuck-will's Widows were first found breeding on the ground in a large grove of cottonwoods in 2000. For the next several years, if birders knew exactly where to search, they were often successful. This nocturnal bird was also found in the same area for several years in the 1980s, but nesting was not confirmed (Tallman et al. 2002).

This species is most active at dawn and dusk. Chuck-will's Widows (and nighthawks) are goatsuckers. Folk traditions often believed mistakenly that these birds suck goat's milk. Although primarily insectivorous, Chuck-will's Widows do occasionally take small birds, bats, and frogs (Straight and Cooper 2012). They usually feed while flying low to the ground or under street lights. Their name derives from their call (thanks to Thayer Birding Software for permission to use this file).

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