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Six bird groups that you may not be familiar with.

If you have not spent a lot time birding there a few family groups with which you might not be familiar.  Here are six that we have selected based on their range or behaviors.

Goat Suckers: Length to 12 inches
Goat suckers are in the family Caprimulgidae.  Many species in this group were once thought to suck the milk from goats, but that is not the case.  They do have wide mouths and typically hunt for insects at dusk or at night.

The most widespread (in the U.S.) of this group of birds is the Common Nighthawk,  often seen flying above lights at ball fields or mall parking lots.  The group includes the Whip-poor-will and the small Common Poorwill, the only bird known to go into true hibernation.

They are also often referred to as nightjars.

Chuck-wills-widow. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Eiders: Length to 24 inches
Eiders are a small group of ducks typically found in the far north.  They are know for the often-strange plumages of the males, in contrast to the mottled brown plumage of most of the females.

male spectacled eider
Male Spectacled Eider. Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Limpkin: Length 26 in.
The Limpkin is only found in Florida and in the U.S. it is the only member of its family group.  It somewhat resembles an egret or ibis but is more closely related to our next very secretive group, the rails.

Limpkin. Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Rails: 6 to 15 in.
Rails are secretive birds usually found in marshes. Often best identified by call.  The AOU has recently split the King and Clapper Rails into multiple different species.

black rail
Black Rail. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Storks: Length 40 inches.
Storks are large, somewhat crane-like birds.  In the U.S. the Wood Stork is the only regularly occurring stork.  It is found in Florida, and limited areas of South Carolina and along the Gulf coast states in late summer.

wood stork
Wood Stork. Photograph © Greg Lavaty

Shrikes: Length 9-10 inches
There are two shrike species found in the U.S.  They resemble the mockingbird in both size and plumage pattern.  Their behavior is like a small hawk or falcon.  They have a hooked beak and will take large insects and even other small birds.  They are sometimes know as the butcher bird for their habit of hanging their prey on a thorn or barbed-wire fence.

loggerhead shrike
Loggerhead Shrike. Photograph © Greg Lavaty.