The Book

The Untold Story of America’s Most Meaningful Bird

Rivaled only by owls, crows, and eagles, Eastern Whip-poor-wills are among the most iconic North American species of birds.

For centuries, Americans anxiously awaited the return of Whip-poor-wills in early spring. So much depended on the first Whip-poor-will’s song, which would extinguish winter, predict the future, guarantee wealth, and cure backaches.

Meanwhile, Whip-poor-will’s enigmatic, nocturnal life has inspired the generations of American poets, writers, singers, and naturalists. From Henry David Thoreau to horror writers H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, from Hank Williams to contemporary indie acts like Big Thief and Darlingside, Whip-poor-wills have made an indelible mark on American culture.

Tentatively titled The Lonesome Whip-poor-will: The Cultural History of America’s Most Meaningful Bird, my new book tells, for the first time, the story of Eastern Whip-poor-wills.

The Lonesome Whip-poor-will is under contract with NYU Press and will appear in its Animals in Context series in 2025-2026.

Plate 41, from American Ornithology, Alexander Wilson

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