What Birds Are Active At Night? (Everything You Need to Know) (2023)

If you’re a birder, you’ve wondered what are the birds that are active at night. After all, many birds we see during the day are tucked away in their nests or roosting when the sun goes down. But there are still plenty of interesting nocturnal birds to be found!

Owls, Nightjar, and Kiwi birds are some notable examples of night birds. These birds hunt or prey during the night. However, these birds aren’t active during the day, resting somewhere in the bushes or their nest.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the common species that are active at night, as well as what time of year you can expect to find them out and about. So if you’re looking for something different to do with your birding hobby, consider heading out into the darkness and seeing what you can find!


  • What Birds are active at night?
    • 1. Owls
    • 2. Tawny Frogmouth
    • 3. Common Nighthawk
    • 4. Black-crowned Night-heron
    • 5. Common Nightingale
    • 6. Nightjar
    • 7. Stone Curlew
    • 8. Yellow-breasted Chat
    • 9. Kiwi Bird
    • 10. European Robin
    • 11. Virginia Rail
    • 12. Hermit Thrush
    • 13. American Robin
  • What Birds Fly Around At Night?
  • What Bird Flies At Night And Makes Noises?
  • What Are Small Birds Active At Night?
  • Final Words

What Birds are active at night?

While most birds are active during the day, there are also a number of species that are active at night. These nocturnal birds often have special adaptations that help them to hunt and navigate in the dark.

In addition, many night-flying birds are also known for their striking calls, which can often be heard in the darkness. While they may not be as well-known as their daily counterparts, these nocturnal birds are an important part of the ecosystem.

Here are some of the most interesting night-flying birds you may not have heard of before.

1. Owls

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A common nocturnal bird that we all know about is the owl. These birds use their exceptional sight and hearing for hunting during the night. However, at night, the view of these birds hardly comes to aid.

At night, they’re stealthy and can spot prey from noise. When they find a target, they use their sharp bills to drill through the skull and eat flesh. That’s how they live during the night.

Note that owls can eat small birds or other creatures at once. The great-horned owl species can find prey easily with their exceptional hearing. Saw-whet owls are also a great example of a night bird.

2. Tawny Frogmouth

What Birds Are Active At Night? (Everything You Need to Know) (2)

These birds feed on small insects and bats. Tawny Frogmouths rest during the day and become active at night, just like most birds.

Frogmouths mainly look for insects and beetles near water sources and the ground. If they can’t find any insects, they can go for more giant animals like a bat. These birds are available in Australia, Asia, and some parts of Europe.

Frogmouths look like owls. So, anyone can get confused when seeing them from far. However, nightjars are closer to frogmouths in appearance and other characteristics.

3. Common Nighthawk

What Birds Are Active At Night? (Everything You Need to Know) (3)

After sunset, the Common Nighthawk begins seeking prey. Moths and insects are the primary food source in the early morning hours.

They are most active between sunset and sunrise. Common nighthawks roost in protected sites near their hunting grounds early morning. People can spot them on billboards or on the top of stadium floodlights. It’s indeed a striking sight for bird lovers.

These birds prefer to perch on large trees or poles, where they can often be seen. It’s where they move their heads quickly from side to side while keeping a firm perch in search of prey.

4. Black-crowned Night-heron

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The black-crowned night heron is better known as the night heron in Eurasia. These nocturnal birds only eat water creatures like small fishes, frogs, etc. Black-crowned Night-herons need to hunt at night, so we placed them on the list of birds that are active at night.

Unlike other nocturnal birds, these birds will only go hunting when they’re hungry. However, they’ll stay quiet at night on a full stomach and rest during the day. These birds love to surprise their prey by waiting quietly at the sea or river shore. They’ll quickly pounce and eat upon spotting a fish or frog close to their territory.

5. Common Nightingale

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One of the most exquisite night birds is the common nightingale. Whenever they’re active, they’ll sing throughout the area. However, they mostly love to hunt and feed on small insects at night. These are probably the prettiest of the birds that are active at night.

Their singing nature makes them the best night birds out in the world. They’re widely available in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia

6. Nightjar

What Birds Are Active At Night? (Everything You Need to Know) (6)

Nightjars are diverse, and they’ve got over 200 species worldwide. They have a very sharp vision and use it for exceptional hunting. During the night, they’ll move from forests to meadows and grasslands.

These birds mainly feed on insects and other small creatures like beetles. However, they won’t mind eating bats when necessary. Overall, nightjars are famous nocturnal birds in the world.

7. Stone Curlew

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Stone curlews are common in Africa, Asia, and Australia. These birds are most active at night. It is thought that Stone Curlews spend most of their active hours hunting for food at night, where they can hear exceptionally well.

However, they explore a range of environments during the day, such as wetlands with thick grasses. Aside from earthworms, they also consume other insects.

8. Yellow-breasted Chat

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Another songbird that is just like the nightingale birds is the yellow-breasted chat. These birds actively sing during the night. However, when necessary, they’ll stop singing and look for food.

They feed on small insects, just like most the nocturnal birds. They’re native to North America. But, you can expect them to breed in different parts of Canada and Mexico. Due to their singing nature, some people don’t mind calling them nightingale songbirds.

9. Kiwi Bird

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This bird is nocturnal and native to New Zealand. These birds are symbolic of the country and many other places.

One of the fascinating factors about these birds is that they don’t make much noise at night. Instead, they’ll look for food quietly by coping with the environment.

When these birds feel a predator is following them, they keep calm. Overall, their exceptional eyesight is the main reason they can hunt food at night.

10. European Robin

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The European Robin is an orange-breasted bird. It is a little in size and brown in color. Their preferred breeding grounds are across Europe and northern Asia. Open woods, scrublands, orchards, parks, and gardens are good places to look for it.

These birds sing all year long, especially during the spring. Avoid them in the spring season because that’s the most active time. To protect their area from other robins, they will sing when they find a mate. European robins are one of the birds that areactive at night.

11. Virginia Rail

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These birds are quiet. They’re active at night hunting food with minimal noise. However, they can make loud noises when they feel endangered.

Note that these birds are only found in North America. They’re exceptional among the Rail birds due to their calmness during hunting.

They have a unique sense of their prey. So, these birds can easily hunt during the night. With pointed bills and strong legs, they’re the sturdiest nocturnal birds.

12. Hermit Thrush

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This bird is from the Turdidae family and has over 360 species worldwide. The hermit thrush is one of the few migratory birds that are active at night. They migrate both during the night and daytime. In between migration, they’ll only hunt food at night.

After staying for a few days in each region, they continue their migration all over again.

13. American Robin

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One of the few birds that sing from dusk to dawn is the American Robin. These birds have beautiful melodies, and they’re attractive to many bird lovers worldwide.

They’re not active at night for food but to attract their opposite mates. So, mating is the primary reason these birds stay up at night. If you want the visual of these birds, start looking around in the early evening.

What Birds Fly Around At Night?

Not all night birds fly at night. But, depending on the situation, every night bird usually flies during the night at some point. Sparrows aren’t nocturnal, but they’ll still fly at night if they feel threatened. The Hermit Thrush will fly at night for migration among the nocturnal birds.

What Bird Flies At Night And Makes Noises?

European Robin and Yellow-breasted chat will fly at night and make noises. However, birds like American Robins and the Hermit Thrush will sing at night actively. Overall, most nocturnal birds will make noise at night except for a few. For example, the Virginia rail birds are quiet at night. They only make noise when they feel endangered.

What Are Small Birds Active At Night?

Common Nightingale, Kiwi bird, and Night Parrot are three notable examples of small birds that stay are active at night. Also, True Owl and Jungle Owlet are one of the few small owls that stay up at night.

Final Words

There you have it, a comprehensive guide on nocturnal birds. These are some of the most active birds that are active at night. Now that you know about them try to look for these birds the next time you go out at night. If you’re lucky enough, you might get to see one or two of them.

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Are there any birds that come out at night? ›

There are many birds that are active nocturnally. Some, like owls and nighthawks, are predominantly nocturnal whereas others do specific tasks, like migrating, nocturnally.

What birds do you see at night? ›

Nocturnal birds, such as night herons, owls, frogmouths, and nighthawks, are active at night, hunting, foraging for food, navigating the skies, and caring for their young in the dark. To understand how their vision differs from that of diurnal birds, let's take a look at the anatomy of a nocturnal bird's eye.

What kind of bird chirps all night? ›

Most birds chirp during daylight hours and sleep at night. However, it's not uncommon to hear a bird chirp in the middle of the night. Nightingales are often thought of when a bird sings at night, but the bird you hear chirping after dark may be a mockingbird, a whip-poor-will or an owl.

What birds wake up at night? ›

Nocturnal birds, like owls and nighthawks, wake up as the sun sets and hunt at night. During the daytime, they find a safe place and close their eyes to block out the light.

What bird sounds like a siren at night? ›

Like many owls, Barred Owls initiate their vocal courtship in winter. And they're among the most vocal. These owls have more than a dozen calls, ranging from a "siren call" to a "wail" to a wonderfully entertaining "monkey call." Barred Owls are among the largest owls in North America.

What bird sounds like an owl at night? ›

If it's not an owl, then what is it? Most likely a Mourning Dove. Not only can their call sound a lot like an owl's hooting to the untrained ear, but these skittish blue-gray birds can also be found everywhere from window ledges and alleyways to backyards and bird feeders.

Do birds sleep in the same place every night? ›

No, most bird species do not sleep in the same place every night. But of course, there are a few that do, like woodpeckers, Verdins and Cactus, and Carolina Wrens. But on the whole, where birds sleep is as varied as the number of species of birds there are. One place most birds don't sleep every night is their nest.

Which bird can see even in total darkness? ›

A night bird like owl has more rods compared to cones . also the bird has a large cornea and a large pupil to allow more light to enter its eye. the night are therefore able to see very well even during night. Was this answer helpful?

Are night owls or early birds? ›

Like the names suggest, night owls tend to stay up late, while early birds go to bed early. That's not the only difference between these two groups, though. Most notably, night owls feel more alert during the evening hours, and morning larks have the most energy when they first wake up in the morning.

What bird sounds like a woman screaming at night? ›

Barking Owls are also notorious for their "screaming woman" call - it is described as a scream of terrifying intensity which sounds remarkably lifelike. This is not a common call and more likely to be used outside the breeding season.

What is very loud chirping at night? ›

Katydids and crickets are excellent examples of nighttime noise-making insects. These insects, which belong to the same Order (Orthoptera) make noises in similar ways: by rubbing their wings together. These insects usually make their high pitched chirping noise at night to attract mates or to warn off predators.

What bird sounds like a screaming child? ›

Sydney zookeeper captures lyrebird replicating the sound of a crying baby. A zookeeper in Sydney caught a lyrebird on camera replicating the scream of a baby.

What are birds doing at night? ›

Where Do Birds Go at Night? Diurnal birds find safe, sheltered places to roost for the night. They often seek out dense foliage, cavities and niches in trees, or perch high in tree foliage, and other places where they are away from predators and protected from weather.

Why do birds wake up in the middle of the night? ›

The core reason for this disorientation is the light pollution which means there are more than the required lights. The urban areas contribute the most to this light pollution with skyscrapers, street lights, and artificial lighting. The birds mistake it for the sunlight and consider it as daylight hours.

What bird sounds like it's laughing at night? ›

The distinct voice of the Kookaburra sounds like human laughing— some people think! They are carnivorous, preferring mice, bugs, small reptiles and snakes.

What bird sounds like a bomb dropping? ›

Yellow-knobbed curassow (Crax daubentoni) at the Houston Zoo. This bird is over 20 years old and has fathered many offspring. The whistle of this species sounds like a bomb dropping in a cartoon.

What bird call is hoo hoo hoo hoo? ›

Great Horned Owls advertise their territories with deep, soft hoots with a stuttering rhythm: hoo-h'HOO-hoo-hoo. The male and female of a breeding pair may perform a duet of alternating calls, with the female's voice recognizably higher in pitch than the male's.

How do birds not fall out of trees when they sleep? ›

They don't fall out of the tree because of the way that their foot muscles relax. They're actually the opposite way round to how we would imagine; when bird muscles in their feet relax, they grip. So that's how they stay in the tree - they're relaxed, so they're holding on. Chris - Do bats do something similar?

Where do the birds go when it rains? ›

When bad weather hits, birds generally seek shelter from wind and rain in dense shrubs or thickets, next to heavy tree trunks, and on the downwind side of woods and forests. Cavity-nesting birds hunker down in nest boxes and natural cavities to ride out storms.

How many hours do birds sleep at night? ›

Most bird care specialists agree that somewhere between 10 and 12 hours of nighttime sleep is appropriate for most birds, and that “cat naps” during the day are generally normal. Also, a bird's activity level may contribute to how much sleep it needs on any given night.

What bird has the best night vision? ›

When it comes to night vision, owls are at the top. Their eyes are shaped more like tubes than spheres, and they don't move in their sockets, so they swivel their heads instead. Their eyes are very large and their retinas have five times the rod density that ours do in order to see in the dark.

What is the bird in the dark half? ›

It took more than 4,000 cheeping finches (masquerading as sparrows) to manifest the plague of tiny beating wings in The Dark Half. It also took a flock of special-effects experts — and a gaggle of faux feathered performers. ”George [Romero] wanted a ton of birds.

What bird is afraid of the dark? ›

What is this? Cockatiels do experience night frights more commonly than any other type of bird, and they are easily flustered by an unfamiliar sound in the dead of night. Cockatiel owners agree that cockatiels are indeed afraid of the dark.

Is it OK to be night owl? ›

"Night owls have been shown to have poorer attention, slower reaction times and increased sleepiness throughout the day. While this is really only an issue for people who work during the day, it can affect any morning parenting obligations you might have, too." But it's not all bad news for night owls.

Can you stop being a night owl? ›

“Like most habits, it's easiest to break [a sleeping habit] if you gradually adjust,” says Chervin. “If you're used to staying up really late, but your desired bedtime is earlier, adjusting in 15-minute increments from night to night will be a lot easier.”

What time do night owls go to sleep? ›

Bedtime: Between 2 and 3 A.M. Wake-up time: Between 9 and 11 A.M.

What animal sounds like a baby crying in the woods? ›

Porcupines can sound like babies in the dark, video shows | Centre Daily Times.

What bird is chirping at 3 am? ›

The northern mockingbird, a medium-sized gray bird, is one of the most notorious singers, taking great joy from chirping and mimicking other bird calls at all hours of the day and night. “Not only do they sing in the morning, but they sing loud,” Capra said.

Why are birds singing at 2am? ›

The effect of dim light. Because even low light intensities can trigger song in some birds, and because they continue singing until the last rays of light have faded in the evening, it is easy to see how the singing period could easily be extended into the night.

What bird makes a single note call at night? ›

Common Barn Owl

It is happy to nest in open barns, silos, sheds, and other structures, including nest boxes. But they don't hoot like other owls. This owl's raspy screech is unexpected, and holds a long, single note without variations in tone.

What sound scares a bird? ›

One of the best sounds to get birds to scatter (and perhaps not to return) are synthetic sounds such as high-frequency, ultrasonic sounds. If you add in a frightening visual object such as an owl statue or scarecrow with shimmering tassels, the strategy becomes all that much more effective.

Is there a bird that cries like a baby? ›

The Trumpeter Hornbill is a gregarious bird, usually living in groups of 2 to 5 individuals, although sometimes as many as 50. They have a very distinctive and very loud cry often sounding like a crying baby.

What bird makes the weirdest noise? ›

Occasionally compared to the whine of a chainsaw or, less convincingly, to a cow's moo, the Capuchinbird's marvelously strange call is out of this world. Although not threatened, Capuchinbird populations are in decline, likely due to the destruction of their rainforest habitat in northeastern South America.

Why are birds up at 4am? ›

It can start as early as 4:00 a.m. and last several hours. Birds can sing at any time of day, but during the dawn chorus their songs are often louder, livelier, and more frequent. It's mostly made up of male birds, attempting to attract mates and warn other males away from their territories.

Can you see owls with night vision? ›

As many birders know, many birds such as owls are nocturnal, and these digital night vision scopes allow birdwatchers to observe those animals in their natural habitats well after the sun has gone down.

Can hawks see at night? ›

A special combination of sharp talons and exceptional sight make hawks great predators. However, everything has its limitations. And despite the fact that hawks have sharper eyesight than most animals (humans included), they're unable to see at night. Therefore, hunts don't typically hunt at night.

What are the signs of seeing an owl? ›

"Owls symbolize inner wisdom, change, transformation, intuitive development, good luck, and self-actualization," says Charlotte Kirsten, M.A., a cultural symbolism expert and founder of Typically Topical. Some people wonder, is an owl a good omen? The answer depends on who you ask and the culture you're living in.

How do you spot owls at night? ›

To spot an owl, stay up late and do some nocturnal wildlife-watching from the comfort of your deck or on your next camping trip. As human activity dies down for the evening and the smaller animals that owls prey on become active, you are more likely to spot one of these nighttime birds.

Why do I keep seeing an owl? ›

An owl is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. It's related to mental transformation and maturity. If you see an owl in your enclosure, it symbolizes your mental growth and stability. It's a sign you're on a path of cognition of secrets of life and it's the perfect moment to start a new project in your life.

Do hawks eat small dogs? ›

Most dogs (and cats) are large enough to be safe from hawks and owls. Even very small dogs may be too heavy for a hawk or owl to carry, although it's still possible that large raptors might attack them.

Can hawks pick up dogs? ›

In fact, hawks can pick up small dogs and carry them away, just like other prey. Black-tailed rabbits, which are popular prey of red-tailed hawks, can weigh as much as 6 pounds, more than your average Chihuahua. So, it's totally possible for a hawk to pick up and carry off a small dog.

What is the natural enemy of a hawk? ›

Hawks get attacked and can be eaten by hawks that are larger, eagles, owls, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. Their position on the food chain keeps them out of reach for most predators. However, hawk eggs and younger hawks who haven't developed full strength can still be gobbled up.


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