Chuck-will’s-widow

Antrostomus carolinensisNaturalist Gabriel Willow, whom I explored Monhegan Island and other parts of Maine with last year, spotted a Chuck-will’s-widow in Bryant Park yesterday. This Midtown Manhattan park is a remarkable migrant trap, but this was pretty unusual, so word quickly spread. I managed to get to the park around 3:00, where, amid the dozens of Midtowners and tourists lolling and wandering in the warm sun, a few birders were triangulating on the bird.Antrostomus carolinensisThe bird’s eyes are closed in the strong sunlight. They spend the day perched on branches and hunt airborne insects at night. That tiny-looking beak is actually just the front edge of a huge mouth, all the better for gobbling through the sky like a vacuum-cleaner. (Update: turns out they’ll even take birds! Here’s a report from the Wilson Bulletin and here’s a blurry pic of a Waterthrush in the maw.)

This is the first time I’ve seen one of these, although I’ve heard one before. Their nocturnal song is distinctive: indeed, they say their name (well, more or less).

In 2010, I found a Whip-poor-will in Prospect Park. Since then, these related species have been moved from the Caprimulgus to the Antrostomus genus by the Lord High Taxonomists. Here’s some more on the goatsucker-nightjar-nighthawk complex, including two I saw in Texas last year.

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