Nightjar Distribution in Southern Illinois

The Eastern Whip-poor-will and the Chuck-will’s-widow are two well-camouflaged bird species in the Nightjar family most often recognized by their charismatic calls. In the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, both species were identified as species of high interest for their long-term decline largely due to reductions in their prey populations (mostly moths and beetles) and habitat loss. This project, led by MS student Elaine Metz, seeks to understand the population dynamics and habitat use of these understudied birds in southern Illinois. As Eastern Whip-poor-will and Chuck-will’s-widow are both sparsely distributed, we used sound recording devices placed at over 150 different locations throughout southern Illinois to detect them. We collected over 2 Terabytes (about half a million minutes) of recordings in the summer months of May to early July 2022. We will analyze the nocturnal recordings for the presence of these birds using machine learning techniques. The goals of this project are to understand occurrence of both species in southern Illinois as it relates to habitat composition and compare this focused survey effort with broader, less targeted designs. Results will be used to inform conservation measures and direct future monitoring programs for both species in southern Illinois. (Photograph copyright: David Hollie | Macaulay Library)

Brent Pease, Ph.D.
Brent Pease, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor (he/him)

Brent Pease is an Assistant Professor in the Forestry Program at Southern Illinois University.