Endangered: the Eastern Whip-poor-will



Whip-poor-wills are often described as “cryptically coloured”. In other words, their muted colouring is a perfect disguise against a tree branch or when nesting on the ground.

These birds co-ordinate their nesting with phases of the moon so young birds will hatch when there’s most moonlight for parent birds to hunt for insects to feed nestlings. Whip-poor-wills forage within 500 metres of the nest in order to keep a constant watch over it. If the parent birds sense danger, they will try to distract the intruder from their ground nests, just as killdeer do. Within a week, the nestlings must be strong enough to move from the nest into the denser, safer cover of woodland.

Whip-poor-wills return to the same nesting site year after year.  In April and May of this year, they will come back to their traditional breeding ground at Ostrander Point and nest about May 5th. Nestlings will then hatch around the time of the full moon, May 25th. This may be the last time Whip-poor-wills nest at Ostrander Point if the construction of roads and turbines begins in August and September.

Because climate change is creating longer summers, second broods of Whip-poor-will babies are quite possible. A Whip-poor-will who tries to build a second nest around July 2 or August 1 could be killed and her nest destroyed by Gilead Power’s gravel trucks. Second nests would help to increase the population of this species whose numbers are declining alarmingly – mostly because of habitat destruction like that planned at Ostrander Point and collision with vehicles as the birds hunt along highways.

It is shocking that the Ministry of Natural Resources has given Gilead Power a permit to kill, harm and harass the Whip-poor-will, as well as to destroy the habitat of this special bird.

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