By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
The last few weeks, south Alabama has experienced some really nice spring weather. Although some mornings have been quite chilly, it is nice to know that we don’t have to worry about shoveling snow in April, like our friends up north. However, the mild nights of spring have brought about a specific noise that keeps many southerners awake; that is the sound of the Chuck-will’s-widow.
Who knew that such a tiny bird could make so much noise at such an inconvenient time? All my life, I have lived in Alabama and I have become accustomed to the night sounds that start up in the spring and stick around through summer but disappear in the fall. I am referring to a certain screeching noise that can only come from a bird. Thanks to Randy Travis, I always assumed it was the song of a Whippoorwill, but lately I have been quite curious (mostly because the noise seems to be a lot LOUDER). So, after one night of continuous bird noises and barely any shut-eye, I found my answer. Often confused with an Eastern Whippoorwill, the Chuck-will’s-widow makes a call that is slightly different, but is still audible from dusk ‘til dawn while the tiny bird forages for food during the night hours. Although rarely spotted because of their fantastic camouflage, there is no hiding that high pitched call. If you do want to see one of these birds during daylight hours, you can probably catch them snoozing on a branch or on the ground. These birds are often found in pine forests in the Southeast United States. Chuck-will’s-widow is a ground nesting bird that lays its eggs amongst the dead leaves and pine straw that has fallen to the forest floor. It is very easy to mistake this bird for an Eastern Whippoorwill based on appearance and the way they sound, but once you listen to the two, you will never make that mistake again.
If Chuck-will’s-widows are keeping you up at night, I suggest you invest in a noise machine to utilize during the spring and summer months to drown out the high pitched call of this bird. Otherwise, you might find yourself irrationally angry at a little bird that stays up all night. Sweet dreams! Don’t let the Chuck-will’s-widow wake you!
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