Animals In Appalachia Appalachia

The Call Of Whipporwills

A few weeks ago someone asked if I there were whippoorwills around where I live, I believe it was Laurie from Pride of West Virginia. There are whippoorwills in my mountain holler. In fact I’ve had a whippoorwill alarm clock for the last several weeks

Every morning between 5 and 6 a whippoorwill starts calling right outside my bedroom window. You can also hear the same bird calling just after dusky dark in the evenings.

I decided to try and capture the sound of the whippoorwill for you to hear too, I mean it should be easy right?

The first morning I tried I scared the bird off. First it flew to the other side of the house then as I came closer it flew farther away towards Pap and Granny’s. Here I go running down the driveway in the pitch dark in my pjs-I’m sure I was quite a sight.

The next time I tried I realized if I could hear it so well in the house then I didn’t even need to go off the porch to get a good recording. So that’s what I did, stood on the far end of the porch. You can sorta see the white outline of our greenhouse.


Hope you enjoyed hearing the call of a whippoorwill.

Do you hear whippoorwills around your place?


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  • Reply
    July 1, 2012 at 6:47 am

    Oh yeah, we have whipporwills here on the farm. And one of my favorite things to do is to sit outside and listen to them.

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    June 8, 2012 at 3:49 am

    tipper that is such a beautiful song.. i love it and thanks so much for sharing… now i can understand the song like the others have talked about.. it is a very haunting sound… and i would love to hear it in the mornings.. i love all the birds songs.. it makes me smile to hear them.. we have the regular ole birds here.. robins, doves, cardinals, bluejays, crows, wrens… etc. but i would love one of your whipporwills to come here and sing. 🙂
    have a great weekend..
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
    June 7, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    The lonesome call of the whipperwill. We have some around here. I love to listen to them. The Screech owls… not so much. lol

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    June 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    I remember when my husband and I spent a vacation with our then three-year-old daughter in a cabin in the Shenandoahs. We had been told by the lady who owned the cabin to listen for the whippoorwills, so we all went out on the porch to listen. Our daughter was so excited when she heard their song: “I can hear them whippooring!”

  • Reply
    Donna W
    June 7, 2012 at 9:07 am

    I haven’t heard a whippoorwill in years. The Internet tells me their numbers are decreasing, thanks to destruction of their nesting places and the abundance of feral cats.
    As a child, whippoorwills put me to sleep at night when I spent time at my grandmother’s. If there was a way to buy some whippoorwills and force them to live here, I spend a big amount of money to do so. I miss them.

  • Reply
    June 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

    I haven’t’ heard them here around home in WV yet, but a few weekends ago at my parents’ house where I grew up, I made a recording of one pretty close by. You can hear it here:

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    June 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Great recording! I love it. I don’t think I’ve heard one in a while, I’m going to have to start listening for them.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Yep, we have ’em. We hear about every bird you could imagine in our area. Funny thing is, we have a Mocking Bird that mimics a car alarm and another one that mimics a cell phone ring. It’s hilarious to hear them.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    June 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    I miss whippowills!

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    June 6, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I miss the sound of the whippoorwill’s, that use to be in our woods when we first moved here, before the 4 lane was built, I was raised with the sound around our home, at evening time and at night, even the sound of the bobwhite, owls, sorta depressing to know this is something lost that you once had, I guess in a lot of ways we take for granted the simple things in life…

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    I remember hearing them all the time when I was a kid. My mother would have us listen closely since she believed there would be no frost after the first one was heard.

  • Reply
    Jen Y
    June 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    I love to hear the whipporwills though I never noticed them in the early mornings – I always hear them in the evenings. It’s so hot & humid here that the AC is on all the time now. It’s one thing I miss about WV, cool nights with the windows open & sleeping to the night sounds. Here, I have to go outside, brave the mosquitoes, ticks & humidity to hear the the sounds.
    My dh works at a major food manufacturer & they were re-roofing the plant recently. My husband takes a lot of pictures for the plant & the mechanics asked him to go up on the roof to take a picture of a bird they found nesting on the flat asphalt roof – it was a whippoorwill! It was kind of funny how excited the men got about it. They all said they’d heard them all their lives but most had never seen one. They are hard to spot. She sat their on her eggs & would not leave them for anything.
    I couldn’t believe she could handle the very high heat there in the afternoons with no shade at all. It seems like it would cook her eggs.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Whip dropped by for Shavuot evening and gave us all quite a show. He sang the trademark song with a gusto that delighted my 8 year old Alaskan visitor and his Mom – a dear friend I had not seen in years. He kept swooping across the back yard and then back to land on an old stake I had used for a mullein plant. It was all “smiles and wows” for my group and I still wonder what it may have been that I could not see which he may have been hunting and eating. Probably saved some tree, herb or flower for me 🙂 Something else to research!!!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    June 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I haven’t heard a whippoorwill around our house in years. When I was growing up, we would sit on the front porch of the evening, and listen to the whippoorwills on the mountains. You are so fortuate to still have these birds around your home. I sure wish they would return to our neighborhood.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I love the sounds of the whipper-
    will. One time I was posseum
    hunting with daddy and one of my
    brothers and got to see one perched up under an overhanging
    bank. It was an old loggin’ road
    and daddy just happened to shine
    his light up under there and you
    could see those little beady red
    eyes. This one wasn’t no bigger
    than a large egg, but we didn’t
    bother him none. We use to sit
    on the porch after supper and
    enjoy the sounds of the whipper-
    wills in our mountain hollar.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    What a wonderful sound! I’d love to have that alarm clock every morning. Right now the male mockingbirds are serenading us every night.

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    June 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    We don’t have them here in northeast Kansas (or at least not very many) but in the southeast part of the state where my wife is from they are pretty common, and we’d hear them when we used to go camping there. Heard one there just last year when we were out to see an eclipse of the moon.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    We do have whipperwills in our woods. Most often the sound we hear is “chip butter outa the white oak”. I don’t really like their sound; always made me lonesome when I was little and heard them at night.

  • Reply
    Tim Cuthbertson
    June 6, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for another interesting post, Tipper. I also have whippoorwills in my back yard at my suburban home in central Alabama. They are always pleasant to listen to.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Speaking of haunting sounds. Have you heard the rain crow? Or at least what I call a rain crow. When I googled it, what I found ain’t the sound I am familiar with. I’ve never seen the bird, but hear its mournful call about twilight time. It is supposed to predict rain.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I love all the birds’ songs – and the crickets, cicadas, and the whole symphony of summer!

  • Reply
    Mrs. K
    June 6, 2012 at 11:12 am

    I recent;y heard a recording of this somewhere else, can’t remember where, but it sure brought back memories. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    June 6, 2012 at 10:51 am

    A very clear recording, Tipper. When I heard it, I concluded that the call that I had concluded was whippoorwill early in my life was wrong. I am glad to get it in my head as the right call. I don’t think we have them in South Florida, but I will listen for them in NC and TN.

  • Reply
    Charlotte Woody
    June 6, 2012 at 10:51 am

    One of my earliest memories is sitting on the front porch in southern Arkansas in the evening with my Grandpa and listening to the whippoorwill. He is the one who first told me what it was; and I still think of him when I hear one. We live back in the same area now and hear them in the trees beyond our back yard.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I remember Hank’s song and “That lonesome Whiper-will.” That was the thing that came to mind when I first tuned in today. It does sound “Too blue to fly” doesn’t it? “That midnight train is whining low.” I never really knew the proper spelling of the word. we always called them Whiper-Wills and I guess it depended on the kind of day you had but, about dusk they could produce a feeling of loneliness. Can’t remember just when I first heard one of those birds but, I can remember sitting on the front porch at evening with Momma, my little sister, and my big brother and hearing them. We were wealthy and didn’t know it.
    Thanks Shirla and Tipper for jump starting my memory. When I get all my work done today I’m gonna listen to my Hank Williams DVD.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Thanks for sharing. Haven’t heard one in ages. Would love to have them to wake up to.

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    June 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

    I haven’t heard a whippoorwill In ages, so your recording made me smile and long to hear them again. On the other hand I do hear owls talking to each other in the early morning hours.

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    June 6, 2012 at 10:01 am

    I haven’t heard a whippoorwill in probably 20 years. We used to hear them when we would sit on the porch in the evenings.
    I sure do miss them!

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Tipper we do have whipporwills and bob whites in Louisiana. Your post took me back to evenings spent sitting on the porch with all the family and sometimes the neighbors too. It would be so pleasant sitting listening to the stories of the older folks while trying to catch a cool breeze. I can smell the sweetness of the cape jasmine blooms that those breezes brought. The sound of the whipporwill was always kind of a lonely sound to me. Made me appreciate having my loved ones there with me. Life was so much sweeter and simpler then.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 9:38 am

    As a child, we used to sit on the porch when evening came and the chores were done. I thought the whipporwill was the most lonesome sound I had ever heard. I remember their song sounding more like ‘whip-er-WILL’. I have learned to love the sound and realize it was the remote area where I was raised that made everything seem lonesome, especially the rooster crowing.
    Remember Hank Williams singing about the lonesome whipporwill in “I’m So Lonesome I could Cry?”

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 6, 2012 at 9:36 am

    and Ed ….My Blue Heaven by Fats Domino….next verse:
    I’ll see a smiling face, a fireplace, a cozy room,
    A little nest that nestles where the roses bloom;
    Just Molly and me, and baby makes three,
    We’re happy in my Blue Heaven.
    Gosh, them was the good ole days…
    I loved “Blueberry Hill” too…LOL
    Isn’t it funny how one Whipporwill can trigger warm memories…careful we’re telling our age…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    June 6, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Tipper (and others who asked about different sounds)–I’m pretty sure that the birds most of your readers would be hearing are the eastern whippoorwill, a member of the nightjar family. They are sometimes known as goatsuckers, chuck-wills-widow, and other names. Like skeeters, they are crepuscular in habit.
    Their sound is variusly described as haunting, beautiful, eerie, irritating, and lonesome (Hank Williams). Most any turkey hunter can tell you tales of nearby whippoorwills driving them nuts at daylight as they strained to hear the sound of a distant gobbler giving voice.
    Folks have mentioned the way whippoorwills figure in song, but unless I skipped it no one has mentioned a wonderful poem, rhythmic in quality and sure to go straight to the heart of anyone from the southern Appalachians, entitled “The Mountain Whippoorwill.” Written by Stephen Vincent Benet, it is a wonderful take on the Fuast legend and it was part of Charlie Daniel’s “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” I recommend that you, and indeed everyone, read it if you haven’t already. The poem begins (and I’m probably slightly off, but not much):
    Up in the mountains it’s lonesome all the time,
    Soft wind slewin’ through the sweet potato vine.
    Up in the mountains it’s lonesome for a child,
    Whippoorwills calling when the sap runs wild.
    Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog,
    Everything’s lazy as an old hound dog.
    I was born in the mountains, lonesome born,
    Raised running ragged through the cockleburrs and corn.
    Never knew my Pappy, maybe never should,
    Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel wood.
    Never had a Mammy to teach me pretty please,
    I think she was a whippoorwill a flittin’ through the trees.
    I never had a brother nor a whole pair of pants,
    But when I start to fiddle, why you gotta start to dance.
    The poem goes on for a long time describing a fiddling contest in which the “Mountain Whippoorwill,” a lad by the name of “Fiddling Jim,” beats the best from all over at the Essex County Fair.
    It ends up along these lines:
    “They’ve fiddled the rose and they’ve fiddled the thorn,
    But they haven’t fiddled the mountain corn.
    They’ve fiddled sinfula nd they’ve fiddle moral,
    But they haven’t fiddled the brushwood laurel.
    They’ve fiddled loud and they’ve fiddled still.
    But they haven’t fiddled the whipporwill.
    Then he gets on his strings in earnest:
    Hell’s broke loose, hell’s broke loose, hell’s broke loose in Georgia.
    Fire on the mountains, snakes in the grass, Satan’s here a bilin’, oh Lordy let him pass.
    Go down Moses, set my people free.
    Pop goes the weasel through the old red Sea!
    Jonah sittin’ on a hickory bough,
    Up jumps a whale and where’s your prophet now.
    Rabbit in the pea patch, ‘possum in the pot,
    Try and stop my fiddle, now my fiddle’s gettin’ hot.
    You get the idea. I once had the whole thing memorized and still remember much of it. Two things for sure–Benet could shape a rhyme and he knew mountains ways. I’ll let you all look it up and read the whole poem to find out what happens.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    June 6, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Thank you, Tipper. That is a beautiful sound. I haven’t heard them here in my PA home, but we heard them in Maine. Being a self-professed “bird nut”, I can tell you that birds have regional “dialects” like people do. For instance, the Great Horned Owls here in PA add more syllables to their call than they do in Maine.
    Birds have to adapt to the distance they have to call to attract a mate and to the amount of ambient noise they have to call above.

  • Reply
    Melissa P. (Misplaced Southerner)
    June 6, 2012 at 9:17 am

    I think Judy’s referring to Chuck Wills Widow. They, too, are “goatsuckers” (more correctly called nightjars)like Whip-poor-wills. They are closely related to nighthawks. They are all very difficult to see. They have some of the best camouflage in the animal world.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 6, 2012 at 8:59 am

    What is happening this year….We heard the first Wipporwill since we moved here back in the 70’s…We we heard it, I told my husband that I heard the Chuck Wills that is the only one we have heard in years…
    The next night I heard it again and then we both listened. We couldn’t believe that it was a whipporwill and not the Chuck wills widow that we had been hearing for years since the Whipporwills left…I had heard that the Whipporwills had decreased since the invasion of the coyote in the 70’ well as the decrease around here of the quail and grouse which we had when moving here years ago….I am such a happy camper and listen for the whipporwill every evening as well as during the early morning hours…Now then if only the Bob Whites and Grouse will come back to the edge of our woods…There is nothing sweeter to see than a little mamma quail and that row of tiny little chicks following her right in a row….You have to have the “eye” or they will dissapear right before your eyes as they scurry across the edge of the woods…
    That’s Tipper, with another mountain magic moment, as this just happened night before last….oooooohh!
    Did the “Green Man” see you in your PJ’s…..So very funny, I can’t run down the driveway but….so many times my husband has said to me…”Where in the world are you going”, when I step out on the porch in the middle of the night and listen to some odd sound of a cricket, frog or other varmit,…LOL Another fun thing was the baby racoons talking and chittering while raiding the bird feeder….not so funny when they grew up…had to trap them and move them on to greener pastures especially since we are going back into the chicken business..LOL

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 8:57 am

    We can hear them near us and they are so enchanting to listen too! They are always singing their songs! Smiles, Cyndi

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 8:47 am

    i am so glad you recorded this. i have not heard one in about 30 years. in the recording I can hear the one, then the one way off. great job and thanks. i don’t think we have them in FL.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 6, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I’ve been whistling the Whippoorwill call all morning! So, people think I’m nuts, so!

  • Reply
    Bob & Inez Jones
    June 6, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Thanks Tipper for going to all the trouble of recording that beautiful sound. The place of my early childhood years was filled with the sound of the whippoorwill especially at the dusky nite hours. I have not heard one since as we live to close to town. What a lovely sound to hear again. Thanks again. Inez Jones

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    June 6, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I love the the sound of the whippoorwill. I have heard them all my life but have never actually seen one. I guess that is because they are nocturnal. My family and I were on vacation last week at the coast of Georgia. A wonderful place called Jekyll Island. We try to make there every year if possible. There is some wonderful wildlife there since most of the island is protected and undeveloped. I read your blog each morning while having my cup of coffee. Our first night back we were greeted by the whippoorwill to welcome us home.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 8:08 am

    Thank you for that, excellent recording. I will have to listen now to see if we have those around our cabin. It is not what I thought a Whippoorwill sounded like! I wish I could identify more bird calls, the only one I recognize concretely is a Cardinal!

  • Reply
    Bill Dotson
    June 6, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I haven’t heard a whipporwill for years but sure do miss them and bob white, guess that was a time in my life I will not see again. I just get to a chorus of tree frogs in my swimming pool which I am planning to take down and then I will miss hearing them also.

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Judy-thank you for the comment! I’ve never heard the other bird you mentioned-does it sound like the whippoorwill?
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Ed-I don’t have it speeded up-but I think it got faster as I got closer : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Joe Mode
    June 6, 2012 at 7:48 am

    That’s great. We just heard a Whipporwill while camping at the lake over Memorial Day weekend. My wife asked what it was, and I was sure it was a Whipporwill. We don’t seem to hear them in our neighborhood, though. I hope they are going the way of the Dodo Bird.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    June 6, 2012 at 7:44 am

    I’ve tried recording them too. Such a lovely sound!

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Odd that you recorded this, my dog goes nuts with the whipporwill’s song. I am not much of a birder, but I do have my feeders out and do try to take care of them all year round. I cannot tell one bird call from another, but have given them names of our own. We have birds of every type and size I just love hearing them sing.

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    June 6, 2012 at 7:24 am

    That was beautiful! I have heard the song, but can’t say I have ever seen one of those birds. I guess it is back to the bird book for me.

  • Reply
    Laurie Stone
    June 6, 2012 at 7:23 am

    Thank you so much for playing the Whippoorwhill! It has been about 15 years since I’ve heard one in Southern Maryland, but I remember hearing them so often in West Virginia when I was a child.
    I’m trying to teach my resident mockingbird to whippoorwhill – so far he’s more interested in car alarms, I was able to teach him Bob-White.
    What a great alarm clock you have!
    – Laurie

  • Reply
    Judy Mincey
    June 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Yours sounds different than the ones I remember from childhood and the ones I hear at my friends, the Hollingsworths, at Ila, GA. Yours is less distinctly broken into syllables. GA ones are more “whip or whill” and slower. Have you heard the similar “wills a widow”?

  • Reply
    June 6, 2012 at 7:14 am

    I would love to have that alarm. I have always loved the call of the whippoorwill. I live too close to town, and there aren’t any wooded area close by. My sister lives out in the boonies and she will call me and let me listen to her birds.

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    June 6, 2012 at 7:12 am

    Thanks for starting my day off the beautiful Whipoorwill – one of my favorites. Years ago, I spent four summers boarding with a retired school teacher while working at a historic site in rural Georgia. She lived in an old farmhouse built by her Grandfather. I had a corner “preachers room” that opened onto the screened front porch. With windows on the front and side and the door to the porch open, I slept with a nice breeze coming through and a Whipoorwill calling just outside. Those were some lovely times. I had one visit last year for a night or two but I don’t seem to have the correct habitat to keep them around. I was thrilled to see the one last year perched on a limb. I knew immediately what it was because he was perched parallel on the branch and later that night he sang to confirm it – warmed my birding heart!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    June 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Yep, we got them. Love to hear them sing.

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    June 6, 2012 at 7:05 am

    We also regularly hear the call of the whipporwills in our holler as well.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 6, 2012 at 5:50 am

    When whippoorwills call and evening is nigh,
    I hurry to my Blue Heaven.
    A turn to the right, a little white light,
    Will lead me to my Blue Heaven.
    That’s it! That’s what I was trying to think of. Any you other old folks remember it?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 6, 2012 at 5:42 am

    There is a gentle rain falling here this morning. Just in time to give a little boost to my tiny garden. The sounds of rain on my tin roofed home and the water gurgling in the gutters and downspouts have masked the chorus of birds I wake to on a normal spring morning here just east of heaven. The whippoorwills sing here too, morning and night. Sometimes they seem to be talking back and forth to each other. Sometimes as if they try to harmonize. But I guess this morning’s rain has them sleeping in as I wish I could.
    Your whippoorwill seems to be talking faster than mine do. Do you have it speeded up or is it a female?

  • Reply
    S Kalvaitis
    June 6, 2012 at 5:10 am

    I have not heard a whipporwill since I was a kid. I loved hearing this as did my cat. Another bird we heard all those years ago was a Bobwhite. I had forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder.

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