In a newsletter mailed in February 2012, we asked readers to share memorable experiences with one or more nightjars -- Common Pauraque, Chuck-will's-widow, Eastern and Mexican Whip-poor-wills, Buff-collared Nightjar, and Common Poorwill. We printed a handful of the responses in the article Finding Nightjars in our June 2012 issue; additional responses are below. Please feel free to write a comment sharing your own nightjar memories! -- Chuck Hagner, Editor
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Chuck-will's-widowWe have at least two Chuck-will's-widow on our property, one on either side of our meadow, and in the early evening they call back and forth across the meadow. They start off softly and get louder and louder, and then they back off again to silence. It's sweet. Thanks for asking! -- Patti McLead, Johnson City, in the Texas Hill Country
Every spring and summer, we hear Chuck-will's-widow calls that are usually on a ranch across our back fence. Once in a while, they are so close that we know they are in the brush on either side of our lot or in our back yard. When hear them from a little distance, the call sounds more like "weird will," but up close, it's obvious where they got the name, as you can hear all the sounds. -- Jim Neely, Dripping Springs, Texas
We live in the Midlands of South Carolina. Our home backs up to a nature reserve with pine trees and leafy deciduous trees. There is flat land with tall weeds and grasses. In the spring at night, we hear the Chuck-will's-widow's distinctive call. It sounds both haunting and serene as we sit on our porch and feel the comfort of nature so close by. -- Maxine, South Carolina
One time, while sneaking about near a cypress swamp in Orlando, I had the good fortune to flush a Chuck-will's-widow from the ground. It landed on a nearby branch, and I did get a photo. -- Sue Wetmore, Brandon, Vermont
This was a common night-time bird song at my lake house on Lake Travis, just west of Austin, Texas. The area is dense with scrub cedar and live oak and a near proximity to water. The "singing" would always occur at dusk and last for at least a couple of hours. -- Kenneth Newell
Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will's-widowWanted info about these birds? My only experience of hearing these birds is on the BBS routes I do each year. Their vocals are always welcome because they're sounds I never hear anywhere else! I've never seen either bird. I heard a whip-poor-will one time only one year of probably 15 on a Lamar County route (Vernon, AL). I hear a Chuck-will's-widow every year on a Pickens County route (Carrollton). One year, there was two. Both species were heard at approximately 5:30 am. I wonder if it's like this for other birders? -- Sam Bowman, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Eastern Whip-poor-willBack in the 1980s, we were camping in the Nicolet National Forest of northern Wisconsin. We apparently shared the campsite with an Eastern Whip-poor-will. Need I say more? We did not sleep well! -- Emily Wilson, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Whip-poor-willMy most memorable experience was sitting in my minute office late at night at the Sharon Audubon Center in Connecticut, when suddenly it began to call outside my window. The habitat was a yard backed by woodland. I never jumped so high! -- Martha Hansen, Fort Davis, Texas
Many years ago, as an advisor to a group of Explorer Scouts, we camped out at the Ashford Scout Reservation, south of Dakota City, Nebraska. It was a beautiful warm night with a full moon, and a whip-poor-will did not cease its monotonous call until 3 am. I can still hear one of the scouts yelling in an un-scouting-like manner: "Shut up, you dang bird!" We were all bleary-eyed when the sun came up and activities were to start! Not a restful night in any sense of the word! -- Ed Sibley, Sioux City, Iowa
I spent my summers at my grandfather's cottage on the Ottawa River (Ontario, Canada) in the 1940s. Life was much simpler then, and children seem to have more freedom. But when the whip-poor-wills could be heard, we knew that we had to head home. Oh, how I missed that sound! Then one night on Jekyll Island, Georgia, a year or two ago, I again heard that sound. I was thrilled. Then, to my surprise, it proved to be the mockingbird singing his many songs... and bringing me so many memories. I will always cherish that sound, no matter what the source. -- Elaine Prebble
For a number or years, I have completed a Breeding Bird Survey in the inter-lake district of Manitoba. I catch a few hours of sleep, then begin the survey at about 4:45 in the morning in late May and early June. I look forward to that survey in part because I consistently hear the whip-poor-will where I park and sleep and then begin my BBS route. At daybreak, I can usually get at glimpse of this amazing bird swooping around for the abundant insects. -- Lewis Cocks
One spring evening, around dusk, a friend and I were at Afton State Park in Minnesota. The park is a mix of woods, mostly deciduous, and prairie. The terrain is hilly, with steep banks leading down to the St. Croix River. I had heard whip-poor-wills there other years and was hoping to hear them again. Their call is such a beautiful and haunting sound. I began imitating their call as I remembered it, much to the amusement of my friend. Success! The whip-poor-will soon began conversing with me, or so I like to think. Another magical moment in nature! -- Mary Kay Lynch
Common PauraqueWe did not see the Common Pauraque but heard it whistle continually at night just a week and one-half ago when we were in western Belize at Chan Chich Lodge in the jungle area with high humidity. -- Bev and Martin Cooper, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Common PoorwillBefore last summer, when I accidentally had come too close to a Common Poorwill nest, the only other time I saw one of these birds was lit up by the beam of a headlight as it sat on the gravel surface of a back road, hunting moths. Living in the dry southern interior of British Columbia, it is always a treat and a bit magical to hear the first spring calls of the poorwill as they gurgle their "poor-WILL, poor-WILL" somewhere off in the darkness. Sometimes they call in flight as they head up to their breeding grounds in the hills along the canyons. While looking for a Common Nighthawk nest one day (for the BC Breeding Bird Atlas), I flushed a bird a few feet away into the nearby bunchgrass. It had been sitting on two eggs under a rock ledge, so I quickly took some photos, then moved on down the trail. The bird never made a sound. I posted the photos to a bird list and, to my surprise, was informed that my "Common Nighthawk" was actually a Common Poorwill, evident by its white eggs and rusty primaries! Even the local expert had never seen one of these nests, so it was a good addition to the Bird Atlas data and proved to me how little I knew about identifying this species. -- Laure Wilson Neish, Penticton, British Columbia
Several years ago, I was leading a hike at Roxborough State Park in Douglas County, Colorado. The hike started at 6 pm and was to end at 8 pm. The group consisted of people mostly interested in seeing the beautiful park with its soaring red rocks and unspoiled open space. The evening walk was cooled by soft breezes, and we expected to see deer or other wildlife. We were about halfway through the hike, approaching a historic ranch house on the property, when we first heard the tantalizing sound. Everyone stopped and listened as it came again and again. Finally, someone asked me what it could be. (The park has elk, coyotes, black bears, and mountain lions along with rattlesnakes, so visitors are sometimes anxious about venturing out). I identified the sounds as a Common Poorwill, a bird active mostly at night and very difficult to see. I suggested we enjoy the sounds and find photos of the bird later. Several people in the group were from out of state, and one corrected me, saying, "Don't you mean whip-poor-will?" I replied, "No, that is an eastern bird. In the west, we have the poorwill." "Never heard of it," he snapped. To this day, I feel that gentleman (and maybe some others in the group) thought I was making it all up. -- Doris Cruze