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Species Guide

Mexican Whip-poor-will

Antrostomus arizonae

The Mexican whip-poor-will, Antrostomus arizonae, is a medium-sized nightjar that graces the night with its presence across the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of northern Central America. This elusive bird measures between 23 to 24 cm in length and tips the scales at a modest 45 to 50 grams. Its plumage is a tapestry of grayish brown, adorned with blackish brown streaks, while the crown boasts bold blackish brown stripes. A distinctive white band marks the lower throat, separating the blackish throat and breast from the buff belly with its brown bars. Males flaunt broad white tips on their outermost tail feathers, while females exhibit a more subdued buffy coloration.

Identification Tips

To identify the Mexican whip-poor-will, look for its grayish brown upperparts with streaks and the prominent white band on the lower throat. The male's white tail tips are a key distinguishing feature, contrasting with the female's narrower, buffy tips. Wings are brown with tawny and buff spots and speckles, aiding in camouflage during the day.


The Mexican whip-poor-will is a bird of forests and woodlands, favoring mid- to mid-upper elevation, semi-arid to moist landscapes. Oaks and pines are common features in its preferred habitats, providing the perfect backdrop for its nocturnal activities.


This species is divided into five subspecies, each with its own range. A. a. arizonae breeds from southeastern California to southwestern Texas and into Mexico, while the other subspecies are residents in various parts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.


The Mexican whip-poor-will is a master of stillness by day, roosting motionless and blending into its surroundings. As night falls, it becomes more active, engaging in its crepuscular and nocturnal pursuits.

Song & calls

The Mexican whip-poor-will's song is a lower-pitched, less crisp version of the onomatopoeic "whip-poor-will" call, sounding slightly more relaxed and drawn out. It also communicates with a variety of other sounds, including a mellow "quirt" or "queerp," a growl, and a "growl-chuck."


Breeding behavior includes laying a clutch of two eggs directly on leaf litter, with no need for a conventional nest. Both sexes possess a brood patch, suggesting shared responsibilities in tending to the eggs, much like their eastern relatives.

Similar Species

The Mexican whip-poor-will was once considered conspecific with the eastern whip-poor-will, but they were separated based on genetic, morphological, and vocal differences. They remain closely related sister species.

Diet and Feeding

While specific dietary habits of the Mexican whip-poor-will are not well-documented, it is assumed to forage in a similar manner to the eastern whip-poor-will, sallying from perches to snatch insects from the air, with moths and beetles being favored prey.

Conservation status

The IUCN has classified the Mexican whip-poor-will as Least Concern. It boasts a very large range and an estimated population of 320,000 mature individuals. Despite a suspected population decline, no immediate threats have been identified to this species' survival.

Mexican Whip-poor-will Sounds

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