A general habitat description is a technical document that provides greater clarity on the area of habitat protected for a species based on the general habitat definition found in the Endangered Species Act, 2007. General habitat protection does not include an area where the species formerly occurred or has the potential to be reintroduced unless existing members of the species depend on that area to carry out their life processes. A general habitat description also indicates how the species’ habitat has been categorized, as per the policy "Categorizing and Protecting Habitat Under the Endangered Species Act", and is based on the best scientific information available.

Habitat categorization for Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus)

Category 1. Nest and the area within 20 m of the nest

Category 2. The area between 20 m and 170 m from the nest or centre of approximated defended territory

Category 3. The area of suitable habitat between 170 m and 500 m of the nest or centre of approximated defended territory

Category 1

Whip-poor-will nests and the area immediately around the nest (i.e., 20 m) are highly sensitive features supporting the species’ reproduction life cycle and have the lowest tolerance to alteration. These are areas the species depends on for egg laying, incubation, feeding, resting and rearing of young. Whip-poor-wills do not construct a traditional nest as eggs are laid directly on leaf litter (Peck and James 1983). Nests require tree cover, shade, sparse ground cover, and proximity to open areas for foraging on flying insects (Eastman 1991, Reese 1996, Wilson and Watts 2008). These features are important to nesting site suitability. A 20 m distance from the nest is important to maintain the microclimate and vegetation features around the nest. Whip-poor-wills exhibit nest site fidelity (Cink 2002).

It is important to note that Whip-poor-will nests are rarely identified, due to their cryptic nature. It is inadvisable to search for Whip-poor-will nests as this may inadvertently jeopardize the nesting site and/or offspring. However, if a nest is identified, it and the area within 20 m shall be categorized as Category 1.

Category 2

The area between 20 m and 170 m of the nest or centre of approximated defended territory is included in Category 2 and is considered to have a moderate level of tolerance to alteration. This area includes the species’ defended territory and is depended upon for nesting, rearing young, feeding, and resting. Territories have been found to range between 3 11 ha, averaging 4 5 ha (Fitch 1958, Hunt 2009). However, recent research in Ontario has shown that defended Whip- poor-will territories are approximately 9 ha in size, (i.e., approximately 170 m from the nest or centre of approximated defended territory) (English, pers. comm. 2011).

Suitable breeding habitats generally include open and half treed areas and often exhibit a scattered distribution of treed and open space. Structure is known to be an important factor in habitat selection (Garlapow 2007, Wilson and Watt 2008, Hunt 2009). Perching and roosting sites are important features found within this area. During the day, adults will lay motionless on a roost site (or nest) and become active only at dusk (Cink 2002). Perches have been reported to be used repeatedly, night after night (Cink 2002). Roosts are typically located in forest habitat on a low branch or directly on the ground (Mills 2007).

This area can also support additional nesting opportunities. Double brooding is common for this species, with a 32-day average interval between clutches (Cink 2002). Different nest sites are generally used for the second brood but are usually within 80 m of the first site (Cink 2002).

Category 3

The area of suitable habitat between 170 m and 500 m of the nest site or centre of approximated defended territory is included in Category 3 and is considered to have a high level of tolerance to alteration. This area supports various life processes, primarily feeding. Whip-poor-wills forage only at dawn or dusk but can forage all night during moonlit nights. Whip-poor-wills are seldom found greater than 500 m from nest sites based on unpublished field data collected in Kansas over 10 summers, from a study of 20 pairs (Cink pers. comm. 2012). Whip-poor-wills that range greater than 500 m from nest sites are likely females that have abandoned the territory due to loss of a mate (Cink, pers. comm. 2012). The area between 170 m and 500 m from a nest site may incorporate larger forest tracts that support additional foraging opportunities.

Activities in Eastern Whip-poor-will habitat

Activities in general habitat can continue as long as the function of these areas for the species is maintained and individuals of the species are not killed, harmed, or harassed.

Generally compatible:

  • Hiking and non-motorized vehicle use of existing recreational trails.
  • Normal use of existing roadways including access roads.
  • Small-scale selective removal of individual trees.

Generally not compatible footnote * :

  • Large scale development or other activities that result in significant alteration or clearing of vegetation.
  • Indiscriminate application of pesticides within habitat.

Sample application of the general habitat protection for Eastern Whip-poor-will

Diagram illustrating a sample application of the habitat regulation for Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), depicting the habitat categorization described in this document.

Enlarge sample application of the general habitat protection for Eastern Whip-poor-will


Cink, Calvin L. 2002. Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/620doi:10.2173/bna.620

Cink, C.L., pers. comm. 2012. Telephone conversation with A. Chard, March 13, 2012. Professor of Biology, Baker University, Baldwin City, Kansas.

Eastman, J. 1991. Whip-poor-will, pp. 252-253 in Brewer, R., G.A. McPeek, and R.J. Adams Jr., eds. The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Michigan. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, Michigan. 594 pp.

English, P., pers. comm. 2011. Conversation with C. Risley, December, 2011. PhD Candidate, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.

Fitch, H.S. 1958. Home ranges, territories, and seasonal movemgents of vertebrates of the Natural History Reservation. Univ. of Kansas Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. 11(3):63-326.

Garlapow, R.M. 2007. Whip-poor-will prey availability and foraging habitat: implications for management in pitch pine / scrub oak barrens habitats. Master dissertation, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts. 47 pp.

Hunt, P.D. 2009. Whip-poor-will territory mapping at two New Hampshire sites. Nuttall Ornithological Club and Norcross Wildlife Foundation. 16 pp. Retrieved from the New Hampshire Audubon Online: http://www.nhaudubon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/2009-WPWI-report.pdf

Mills, A. 2007. Whip-poor-will, pp. 312-313 in Cadman, M.D., D.A. Sutherland, G.G. Beck, D. Lepage, and A.R Couturier, eds. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, Toronto, xxii + 706 pp.

Peck, G.K. and R.D. James. 1983. Breeding birds of Ontario, nidiology and distribution, Vol. 1: nonpasserines. Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 321 pp.

Reese, J.G. 1996. Whip-poor-will, pp. 194-195 in C.S. Robbins, ed. Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA.

Wilson, M.D. and B.D. Watts. 2008. Landscape configuration effects on distribution and abundance of Whip-poor-wills. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 120: 778-183.

This general habitat description is available in PDF format upon request. Please email PDF requests to recovery.planning@ontario.ca.