With the bedroom windows open at night, a newly arrived chuck-wills-widow lulls me to sleep. Nesting "chucks," our wintering poor-wills, and pass-through whip-poor-wills sing their names explosively at night, so they're called nightjars. To me, however, they are night crooners. Why do I sleep through a chuck-wills-widow but not a neighbor's patio party or barking dog? Maybe I'm just happy to have a bird back from migration this spring of 1989, since they are declining. After 1990 they no longer nested in Owl Hollow, probably due to disturbed ground of the new sewer line and consequent explosion of introduced fire ants, the scourge of all ground nesters like chucks.
Tonight they begin singing about 7:15 p.m., knock off for a few hours around midnight, and resume about 5:30 in the morning -- a great beginning to any day. In about a week, they'll sing off and on all night, beginning at 7:25 p.m. A month from now they will get the evening started about twenty minutes later and be back to their initial bimodal schedule, because they'll be settled and nesting. Eastern screech owls don't like them and give defensive descending trills or screech and snap their beaks at flyby chucks. If competition for food is involved, the owls have an edge, for they begin hunting about half an hour earlier.
Chuck-wills-widows move their eggs if disturbed, although maybe not in response to fire ants that swarm too quickly. Like screech owls, they transport the eggs in their mouths, but will tolerate a couple of flushes, flying around in circles "growling" before moving. Yes, indeed, they make a sound like a growl! I just wish they weren't so difficult to know personally, for I'll bet they have other strange messages. Nests are very hard to find, since the birds sit tight and are the cryptic equivalent of a screech owl but with feathers colored like leaf litter instead of tree bark. I've only chanced onto two clutches and one flightless youngster.