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Chapter 23 of Burgess’ classic “The Burgess Bird Book for Children” rounds out with one more bird: Chuck-will’s-widow. It’s funny to me that I had never heard of any of the three birds before and the chapter finishes with the perfect retort from Jenny Wren:

“That’s what comes of never having traveled,” retorted Jenny Wren. If you’d ever been in the South the way I have you would know Chuck-will’s-widow. He looks a whole lot like the other two we’ve been talking about (Common Nighthawk & Whip-poor-will), but has even a bigger mouth. What’s more, he has whiskers with branches. Now you needn’t look as if you doubted that, Peter Rabbit; it’s so. In his habits he’s just like his cousins, no nest and only two eggs. I never saw people so afraid to raise a family. If the Wrens didn’t do better than that, I don’t know what would become of you.” You know Jenny usually has a family of six or eight.” (emphasis mine)

Thornton W. Burgess, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Living Books Press, p. 118

If you see a range map for Chuck-will’s-widow, you’ll see that they range from the Eastern and Southeastern part of the United States all the way down the eastern coasts of Mexico and into the North West top of South America. A range map for the House Wren shows you how extensive their coverage can be: all over the United States and South America. No wonder she is the ambassador for the birds in this classic.

If you are interested in trying to locate them in the US, venture to the South East. Cornell Lab writes, you can find them “roosting in dry woodlands in the southeast, from pine barrens to oak-hickory and mixed deciduous woodlands.” (Source: That is one place I haven’t spent a lot of time and I would love to venture there soon.

Here is our gathering from learning about this interesting bird:

You can find their call here: American Bird Conservatory (Youtube)

A really interesting view of the size of their mouth: A WILD Connection (Youtube)

Until next time, keep birding <3 Kate

Burgess Bird Pages

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