Pennsylvania Game News - July 2017 - 28
simultaneously analyze changes in habitat
A dramatic decline of whip-poorwills in Pennsylvania can be seen when
comparing numbers of these birds noted
during the first Pennsylvania Breeding
Bird Atlas survey conducted from 1983
to 1989, and the second survey conducted from 2004 to 2009.
Nightjars, as a group, were found to
be experiencing the steepest decline of
all insectivorous birds and overall whippoor-will detection declined 42 percent.
The bird nearly disappeared from
previously occupied parts of western
Pennsylvania and had drastic losses in
the northeast portions of the Ridge and
This drop prompted the Ornithological Technical Committee of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey to list the
eastern whip-poor-will as "vulnerable"
The whip-poor-will's decline is a
complex issue that likely stems from a
combination of several factors.
A decline in aerial insects, especially moths, could be contributing
to the decline whip-poor-wills and
other insect-eating birds, including the
Dependence on aerial insects is something all nightjars have in common.
Some scientists believe agricultural
pesticides might be playing a role, as
Habitat loss and composition changes
might also be key factors in the decline.
Whip-poor-wills are an edge species
that needs a mix of young-forest areas
for nesting and open areas for foraging.
Locations meeting these specific habitat requirements have dwindled in the
northeastern United States and Canada
through a combination of development
and forest maturation, resulting in fewer
prime spots for whip-poor-wills.
The problem also could originate in
the whip-poor-will's wintering grounds,
which stretch from the Gulf states to
Little is known of changing habitat
conditions and human encroachment in
On state game lands, the Game Commission uses land-management practices such as timber-stand improvement
and prescribed-fire operations that could
Efforts to create and enhance youngforest habitat for species such as the
golden-winged warbler and American
woodcock, could help the eastern whippoor-will, as well.
It happened only a few days after that
Chores at the barn were completed
just as the sun slipped over the horizon
and I was walking back toward the
Swallows swooped and darted in
the buggy twilight, their crops full of
insects, ready to return to dried-mud
nests crowded with young.
Bats queued in the barn rafters like
fuzzy fighter jets preparing for an
aircraft-carrier launch. A bird began
calling and I ran the remaining distance
to the house.
My wife and I stood on the front
"Listen," I said.
For a few moments, only silence.
Then, from atop a nearby ridge, we
heard a lone nightjar calling out its
"I am here" it proclaimed, over and