goatsucker


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goatsucker,

common name for nocturnal or crepuscular birds of the order Caprimulgiformes, which includes the frogmouth, the oilbird, potoos, and nightjars. Goatsuckers are medium in size and are found in the temperate and tropical zones of both hemispheres. The name goatsucker is based on an ancient belief that these birds fed on goats' milk by night, but their presence near such animals was no doubt due to the insects attracted by the goats. With their long, pointed wings, weak feet, and small, wide-gaping bills fringed with bristles, goatsuckers have been called flying insect traps. Like their relatives the owls, they are protected by brown, gray, and black coloring, and their lax and fluffy feathers render their flight almost noiseless. This and their monotonous, repetitious song are factors in their superstitious significance. Their weird cries are reflected in the common names for many of the species, e.g., whippoorwill, chuck-will's-widow, poorwill, poor-me-one, potoo, and pauraque. The whippoorwill is common in the E United States. Ornithologists have discovered that the whippoorwill, unlike other birds, hibernates during the winter instead of migrating. Its body temperature drops from 102°F; (39°C;) to 65°F; (18.3°C;), its breathing slows, and its digestion ceases until spring brings the return of the insects that constitute its diet. The whippoorwill's flight, like that of the swift, is graceful and erratic; it sometimes swoops downward and then stops abruptly, producing a booming sound as it spreads its wings to brake. The larger (12 in./30 cm) chuck-will's-widow (Caprimulgus carolinensis) is found in the South and the poorwill (7 in./17.5 cm) in the West. The nighthawk (Chordediles popetue), or bull bat, common in all parts of North America N to Labrador, is the most diurnal of the goatsuckers; it is active at twilight and daybreak, whereas the others fly only at night. The nighthawk's familiar cry is a nasal "peent." The oilbirds of South America have sonar devices that enable them to fly in total darkness. The pauraque, or cuiejo, is a Central American goatsucker, and the aptly named frogmouths are native to Australia and Asia. Goatsuckers are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Caprimulgiformes.

goatsucker

US and Canadian any nocturnal bird of the family Caprimulgidae, esp Caprimulgus europaeus (European nightjar): order Caprimulgiform es.
References in periodicals archive ?
The goatsuckers, which include common nighthawks (Chordeiles minor), the third member of this family found in New York, belong to the Caprimulgidae family.
With goatsuckers on my mind, I hiked east through the pine-scented woodlands on a series of sandy trails and roads for nearly two miles, finally coming to a "T" intersection.
Goatsuckers nest in unprotected open settings on the ground.
New York's goatsuckers lay their typical clutch of two oval, mottled eggs on bare ground or leaf litter: amidst sand and pebbles for nighthawks, and on leaves and twigs for nightjars.
Whip-poor-wills, like most goatsuckers, usually are heard but not seen: They're as silent on the wing as owls, their closest relatives on the avian evolutionary tree.
Tropical goatsuckers tend to lead sedentary lives, given the year-round abundance of food in their insect-ridden haunts.
The large eyes of goatsuckers, on the other hand, are adapted for enhanced night vision, and the birds apparently can discriminate between different kinds of insects silhouetted against twilight or a moonlit sky.
Occurring all around us now is a migration of hundreds of millions - warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, swallows, swifts, vireos, orioles, cuckoos, hummingbirds, goatsuckers, tanagers and grosbeaks - on a scale exponentially vaster than the wildebeest migration, filling our night skies as they head south to the tropics to winter.
Some birds like flycatchers, goatsuckers, and woodpeckers have bristles, specialized feathers on the face which are thought to help protect the eyes during food capture.
It was once believed that these birds would steal milk from goats during the night, hence their once common family name, goatsuckers.