Species On The Move

As climate change impacts habitats around the world, species are on the move, trying to adapt — and survive.


  • Audubon

About This Species

The male whip-poor-will's distinctive wail—"Whip! Poor! Will!"—earned the bird its name. The eastern whip-poor-will spends its summers in the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, flying to the southern U.S. through Mexico and Central America during the winters. Though it's easy to hear the bird on spring and summer nights, the species can be hard to spot because it is nocturnal and spends its days hidden. During the night, it emerges to hunt for insects. The whip-poor-will relies on its vision to hunt, so it's most active during dusk or dawn, or when the moon is shining brightly.

The eastern whip-poor-will can be hard to find

The eastern whip-poor-will is easier to hear than it is to see. Photo: Flickr user Dominic Sherony

Source: Audubon's Field Guide and Climate Report

Conservation Status

Climate change doesn't just have birds and animal species on the move and chasing a more suitable habitat--it's also forcing plants and forests to move or die. In some places, temperate, deciduous forests are disappearing, and with those go the eastern whip-poor-wills. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the birds have disappeared from many parts of New York that they used to inhabit. And numbers elsewhere appear to be down as well. Another contributing factor is the declining number of  large moths and beetles, which make up a large part of the the whip-poor-will's diet.

Eastern Whip-poor-will's range

The eastern whip-poor-will from John J. Audubon

The eastern whip-poor-will from John J. Audubon's Birds of America collection

Looking Forward

By 2080, Audubon's climate model projects that almost none of the eastern whip-poor-will's range will remain stable. It will lose 78 percent of its breeding range and 55 percent of its non-breeding range. In order to survive, Audubon's model shows the bird will have to migrate northward to follow the changing climate. But already the eastern whip-poor-will is declining as its habitat disappears. The bird's future may depend on how climate change affects its already disappearing habitat. 

Source: Audubon's Climate Report

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