Life Goatsucker!

My first ever goatsucker, so called because of the wackily mistaken belief that the nighthawks and nightjars suckled goats. Actually, they are efficient nocturnal insect eaters.

This handsome scamp was in the Midwood in Prospect Park, midway between Rick’s Place & the Boulder Bridge. I believe it is one of the nightjars, a whip-poor-will, Caprimulgus vociferus, primarily because a) it doesn’t look as big as a Chuck-will’s-widow (the birds’ common names are based on what their song sounds like) is supposed to be, and b) the common nighthawk has pale bars on the primaries and strong white neck mark, both missing here. It was, in short, a process of elimination.

And other opinion seems to confirm that it is indeed a whip-poor-will.
Listen to one. Since our bird is thought to be a female, however, a half dozen of us did not hear this at twilight.

14 Responses to “Life Goatsucker!”

  1. 1 Rob May 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Excellent sighting! How in the world did you manage to see this bird?! Got the message and ran out to see it. Looking at your pics and the ones I took, I concur that it is a Whip-poor-will. Going out again tonight to listen for it.

    • 2 mthew May 4, 2010 at 2:51 pm

      It was pure luck of course. I was looking for warblers, naturally, and saw something anomalous. (For those who haven’t seen it, the sun was behind it, making for difficult viewing) Branch-mourning dove-raptor-owl (an oddly headless owl!) quickly ran through my thoughts, and then hey, it’s a goatsucker! Assumed nighthawks were more likely here, but Sibley pointed me otherwise. Saw Hilary and Co. and called them over, convinced them, too.

      • 3 Hilary Salk May 5, 2010 at 6:06 am

        How fun to have spread the word! Amazing sighting! Great technological feats of identification!

  2. 4 Peter May 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm


    Awesome find! It’s likely only the third or fourth record for Prospect. Hopefully your great find will be shared by many.A bird for the year !

    Good birding,


  3. 5 Peter May 4, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Oh,correction on the records.its the 4th since 1990.I did a quick count, your find is the 18th overall. More on that tomorrow when I do a records search.


  4. 6 amarilla May 4, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Wow, Matthew. This will rank among those odd synergies given the fact that I’ve been especially wondering, in the last day or two, if I’d ever get to see a whip-poor-will around here. And now I have, sort of.

  5. 8 Robert Bate May 4, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks Matthew!! A life bird for me too and evidently the all time most cooperative goatsucker. Thanks again

  6. 9 matt May 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    nice find. i am jealous. birder’s world had a nice feature on these goatsuckers this month (or last?). excellent timing.

  7. 10 NJUrbanForest February 26, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Good Post!

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