Wednesday, April 22, 2009


On this day in 1749, Pehr Kalm set down some notes about the Whip-poor-will. The impetus for his journal entry was the arrival of the species on this day of that year. Kalm's teacher, Carl Linne (Linnaeus) considered the Whip-poor-will a variety of the European Nightjar, but Kalm noted that the species' voice was different from the European bird. He compared it to the Common Cuckoo of Europe for its habit of remaining unseen by day but calling at night. He also wrote, "It commonly comes several times in a night, and settles close to the houses; I have seen it coming late in the evening, settling on the steps of the house in order to sing its song" (Kalm 1987). Kalm also relates the story of a Whip-poor-will that played dead when his servant attempted to shoot it.

The photo that illustrates this post shows what would have been a brand new house in 1749; the Whitall House in National Park, Gloucester County, which was built in 1748. A fine example of the brick houses of that era, its fame was sealed when it found itself a front-row spectator of the Battle of Red Bank in 1777.

Kalm, Peter. 1987. Peter Kalm's Travels in America. Dover, New York, NY.

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