Sunday, April 15, 2007


The whippoorwill is a night bird, although sometimes you hear them in late evening. They nest in wooded places and are seldom seen. Thus the picture, which was taken from our deck of the evening woods around our place.

I grew up in the country in Arkansas and grew to love the sound of whippoorwills. It's a lonely sound; it makes you ache. But it touches you. In the last couple of evenings I've begun to hear whippoorwills around my house in Abita Springs, and the memories and feelings aroused by the bird's call have come surging back. I had been lamenting to Lana only a few weeks before that I'd not heard the whippoorwills and that I missed them. I'm listening each night for them now. I hope they will stay.

The name of the wipoorwill comes from the sound of its call, although my mom always told me that the bird wasn't saying "whip poor will" but said instead, "Chick fell out of the willow." That's always how I hear it.

The whippoorwill is supposed to be able to sense a soul departing after death, and that's why they call. Lovecraft used them for this purpose in some of his stories. So did August Derleth. I don't know about that. I know only that their sound renews my soul. It lets me know I'm alive.


Erik Donald France said...

I'm so glad someone finally got to hear 'em again. Spooky but beautifully so, you're right. Any way you can record them for us poor urban chappies?

Steve Malley said...

Thanks for the post. That took me back to summers on my grandfather's place in rural Georgia.


Stewart Sternberg (half of L.P. Styles) said...

I've never heard these birds before but they seeing their name scares the heck out of me. It's because of Lovecraft and Derleth that the word produces such an effect. As a kid I grew up envisioning and hearing them from the dark fiction. Stephen King re-enforced that uneasiness by using them in The Dark Half.

I could always go and research them; find a picture and listen to a wav, but I think I'll stay ignorant of the real thing. I'll let it be my little tribute to HLP.

Anonymous said...

that is so freaking cool. i would like to hear how they sound. I'm going to do a search on the web.

cs harris said...

You caught the effect of hearing them so poignantly. Thank you.

Lucas Pederson said...

Like Stewart, I have never heard this bird's voice. Someday, perhaps, I will. Fascinating.

It's crows, though, that freak me out. I don't know why, but they do. Their racous calls drive cold spikes in to he pit of my stomach.
Great post!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I enjoy certain background noise when I write. Now I'm starting to wonder if my writing is better in the Spring & Summer because I feel reenergized listening to the birds on my back deck.

Drizel said... nice is that. Now I would like to hear them:)
Have a great week:)

Sidney said...

I haven't heard one in a long time, and the thought of them does take me back. The mention also reminds me of seeing fireflies in my yard a few years ago, which was exciting.

RK Sterling said...

I haven't heard one of those since I was a teenager. It is a beautiful, haunting sound.

Sphinx Ink said...

They do have a haunting call, especially since they're mostly heard at night due to their nocturnal habits. (I've always told people I'm a night-owl because I'm a night person rather than a morning person....Maybe now I'll say I'm a whippoorwill instead.)

Enjoy them while they stay. They are migratory birds and won't be around the whole year, as you've already discovered.