provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

The Chuck-will’s-widow is closely related to the Whip-poor-will who are both members of the nightjar family. The nightjar family, Caprimulgidae, translates to “milker of goats” and is based on the ancient belief that these birds would drain goats of their milk at night. This is nothing but an old wives’ tale considering they are largely an insectivorous species. The Chuck-will’s-widow is the largest nightjar in North America! They are year-round residents of southwest Florida and their patterned brown plumage helps them blend in to the woodlands of the southeast United States.

In the mid-Atlantic states, Chuck-will’s-widows will breed in pine, oak, other forests, and edges of swamps. During the winter, they can be found woodlands, brush, and fields as far south as Colombia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. Chuck-will’s-widows will hunt primarily at dawn and dusk, flying low to the ground. Sometimes they can be observed hunting nocturnally for insects when the moon is full. They will consume primarily moths, beetles, dragonflies, and more. Occasionally, they have been seen eating both small birds and bats. They have long and stiff bristles that line the outside of their mouths helping to guide insects into their enoromous mouths.

Interestingly enough, Chuck-will’s-widows do not build nests. They will lay their eggs on the ground using dead leaves, dirt, moss, and pine needles to camouflage them. Be careful though, they will typically choose a nesting spot in dense vegetation on the egde of a roadside or forest clearing. Their nesting sites are potentially used for more than one year. Once hatched, the female will feed the babies regurgitated insects until they are ready for their first flight at about 17 days after hatching.

This somewhat nocturnal bird is most recognizable by its call. The Chuck-will’s-widow has a full, thoarty chant that sounds similar to the pronunciation of its own name. It is much like a high pitched whistle with three in succession before the bird takes a momentary break to repeat it again. It is often confused both in appearance and sound with the Whip-poor-will.

On Monday, August 23, an adult Chuck-will’s-widow (# 21-4591) was admitted from Estero after a window collision. During examination, veterinarians noticed it had poor balance and coordination. The Chuck-will’s-widow was given an insectivore diet including some mealworms and supportive care. The next day, the bird was able to be flight tested and was released later that night back in Estero.

Nighttime and daytime window collisions are quite frequent, but there are things we can do to help prevent them! Move bird feeders away from windows and hang a wind chime, decal, or one-way transparent film on the outside of the glass. Close curtains and blinds when possible (especially at dawn and dusk) to break up the illusion of a clear passage or reflected habitat. If you find a bird on the ground with no visible injury who may have struck a window, observe it for about 15 minutes and if it doesn’t recover from the stun and fly away then get it to your nearest wildlife rehabber as soon as possible!

THIS WEEK AT CROW (8/16-8/27):
There were 214 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 33, eastern gray squirrels, 26 eastern cottontails, five marsh rabbits, 14 northern raccoons, four red-shouldered hawks, two red-bellied woodpeckers, a three striped mud turtle, and a short-tailed hawk. Recent Releases include a gopher tortoise, a mourning dove, an eastern cottontail, and an ovenbird. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!
Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!
Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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