Phantom of the Woods
When fall comes, whippoorwills head for the Gulf Coast of the U.S., Mexico, and Central America, traveling at night. There are many legends and old sayings involving whippoorwills. Gardeners have long used the return of the whippoorwills as a sign that its time to plant corn. This may actually be a better indicator than a calendar.
Whippoorwills return north slowly in the spring, following the hatch of beetles and moths. The metamorphosis from larva to lunch is triggered by rising soil temperature. Since adequate soil warmth is critical for the germination of corn, listening for the whippoorwills song is probably a good way to judge when to plant.
Another belief concerning whippoorwills is that their song can cure an aching back. You simply turn somersaults in time to the birds song and your back-ache will go away!
Even more fanciful legends have blossomed around this intriguing bird. The Iroquois believed that the ladys slipper orchid was the whippoorwills shoe. Like the whippoorwill, the stunning pink ladys slipper flourishes on the floor of the Shawnee forest in serene patches of deep woods, ready to delight the observant visitor.
Learn more legends about whippoorwills, and look and listen for this elusive creature of the night during Shawnee State Parks annual Whippoorwill Walk on May 11. Be sure to bring a flashlight and dress warmly. See the calendar of events for details.