Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of various chiefly nocturnal, insectivorous birds of the family Caprimulgidae, which includes the nighthawk and the whippoorwill.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any bird in the nightjar family Caprimulgidae

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One of several species of insectivorous birds, belonging to Caprimulgus and allied genera, esp. the European species (Caprimulgus Europæus); -- so called from the mistaken notion that it sucks goats. The European species is also goat-milker, goat owl, goat chaffer, fern owl, night hawk, nightjar, night churr, churr-owl, gnat hawk, and dorhawk.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The European night-jar, Caprimulgus europœus: so called from tho vulgar notion that it sucks goats; by extension, any bird of the same genus, or of the family Caprimulgidœ.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. mainly crepuscular or nocturnal nonpasserine birds with mottled greyish-brown plumage and large eyes; feed on insects

Etymologies

Translation of Greek aigothēlas : aigo-, goat + -thēlas, sucker (from the belief that the bird sucked milk from goats).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
goat +‎ sucker (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • _) [2] The epithet _bald_, applied to this species, whose head is thickly covered with feathers, is equally improper and absurd with the titles goatsucker, kingsfisher, &c. bestowed on others, and seems to have been occasioned by the white appearance of the head, when contrasted with, the dark colour of the rest of the plumage.

    The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 17, No. 493, June 11, 1831

  • The Nighthawk Chordeiles minoris not a hawk, of course-- it is a "goatsucker" or nightjar, a bird that flies through the night engulfing insects with its great maw like, as Libby says, a whale cruising through plankton.

    Archive 2006-06-01

  • Dad getting chased by goatsucker ruined the holidays 7,5

    Cryptic crossword No 25,217

  • In honor of its first victims, the unseen monster was dubbed chupacabras -- the goatsucker.

    Bloodsucker?

  • Could this be the legendary “goatsucker”, scourge of livestock?

    Nunc Scio » Blog Archive » 2008: Summer of the Cryptids

  • This led us to discuss the Spanish word of parallel construction, chotacabras or goatsucker.

    languagehat.com: ORNITHONOMY.

  • "Chotacabros" is the word for goatsucker the group of insect-eating birds under original discussion.

    languagehat.com: ORNITHONOMY.

  • Actually related to whippoorwills, in the goatsucker family.

    grouse Diary Entry

  • I got another specimen of the rare New Guinea kite (Henicopernis longicauda), a large new goatsucker (Podargus superciliaris), and a most curious ground-pigeon of an entirely new genus, and remarkable for its long and powerful bill.

    The Malay Archipelago

  • The goatsucker hath sung his song, the shades lower of eventide,

    Hung Lou Meng

Comments

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  • Goatsucker

    by Sylvia Plath

    Old goatherds swear how all night long they hear
    The warning whirr and burring of the bird
    Who wakes with darkness and till dawn works hard
    Vampiring dry of milk each great goat udder.
    Moon full, moon dark, the chary dairy farmer
    Dreams that his fattest cattle dwindle, fevered
    By claw-cuts of the Goatsucker, alias Devil-bird,
    Its eye, flashlit, a chip of ruby fire.

    So fables say the Goatsucker moves, masked from men's sight
    In an ebony air, on wings of witch cloth,
    Well-named, ill-famed a knavish fly-by-night,
    Yet it never milked any goat, nor dealt cow death
    And shadows only--cave-mouth bristle beset--
    Cockchafers and the wan, green luna moth.

    July 13, 2009

  • I've yet to see one of these little rascals in real life.

    December 7, 2007

  • I'd forgotten these!

    December 7, 2007

  • Nickname for birds in the nightjar family, such as the whippoorwill and chuck-will’s-widow. So named because European farmers once believed that the nocturnal birds’ wide mouths could latch onto a goat’s teat and suck its milk during the night.

    December 7, 2007