Do Birds Fly At Night? What Birds Fly at Night?

As a bird enthusiast or a curious observer of nature, you might have wondered whether our feathered friends take to the skies even during the darkness of night.

In this article, we delve into the fascinating world of nocturnal birds and shed light on the question: Do birds fly at night?

Join us on this journey as we uncover the secrets of these elusive creatures, learning about the specialized adaptations that allow them to navigate and hunt under the cloak of darkness.

Moreover, we’ll discover which specific bird species have evolved to be active during the nighttime hours.

So, let’s spread our wings of curiosity and soar into the realm of nocturnal avian wonders!

Do Birds Fly at Night?

Yes, some birds do fly at night.

While many birds are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and rest at night, there are several species that have adapted to be nocturnal.

These fascinating creatures have developed specialized features, such as excellent night vision and keen hearing, allowing them to navigate and hunt in the dark.

In the United States, 30% of birds fly at night.

These nocturnal birds search for prey to provide nourishment for their young and are mostly active at night.

In specific circumstances, though, some diurnal birds can be active at night.

Many diurnal birds, such as sparrows and thrushes, participate in night migration.

Small birds sometimes migrate at night to avoid deadly predators such as eagles and hawks, which are only active during the day.

Birds fly at night for a range of factors such as:

  • They’re a species that only come out at night. During the day they sleep and come alive at night.
  • They’re most active during the day although they’ll also graze at night.
  • They are generally diurnal, although their nocturnal roost has been disrupted.
  • They are generally diurnal, although they sing at night to a court or announce their territory.

Why Do Birds Fly at Night?

Birds fly at night for several reasons, primarily related to survival, resource availability, and reproductive advantages.

While the majority of birds are diurnal (active during the day), certain species have evolved to take advantage of the opportunities that the night offers.

We can see the benefits that nocturnal birds have for hunting and fly at night simply by comparing the anatomy of nocturnal and diurnal birds.

After all, diurnal birds normally avoid activity at night unless they are provoked or in danger.

Because of their evolutionary background, nocturnal birds are well-suited to flying at night.

Some of the features of nighttime birds are listed below:

  • For diurnal birds, muted plumage hues vs. brilliant colors
  • During the day, relying on camouflage to keep out of sight
  • Large, sophisticated eyes to detect prey movements at night.
  • Enhanced senses of smell and hearing

What Birds Fly at Night?

1. Owls

Burrowing Owl

Many owls are nocturnal, as is well known.

You might well have observed owls including Great Horned Owls & Western Screech-Owls call at night and are aware of the Barn Owl.

2. Nightjars


Common Poorwills and Eastern Whip-poor-wills are nocturnal.

Nighthawks both frequent and fewer are crepuscular which means they fly around during sundown rather than at night.

3. Shorebirds

American Woodcock
Credits – Wikipedia

In Northeastern woods, the Woodcock is a nocturnal species that relies on invertebrates.

You may have seen the Killdeer in your neighborhood marshes, sports fields, or shopping mall parking lots.

Many people are astonished to find that these birds may be seen at all hours of the day and night. Shorebirds feed on exposed mudflats at low tide, day or night, due to the rising and falling tides dependent on the moon’s position.

4. Herons


The Black-Crowned and Yellow-Crowned Heron are two species of night-hunting herons.

They may perch in small numbers in thick tangles during the daytime.

5. Pigeon

Band-Tailed Pigeon

Stock Doves snooze peacefully perched on a tree limb under artificial lights.

Even though woodpigeons are one of the most energetic wild birds at nighttime, this is attributable to ground activity rather than flight.

Because it is still a diurnal bird, it is difficult to see in the dark, but pigeons have been known to overcome this obstacle by going about their business as usual.

You won’t observe a pigeon doing the same thing at night as they do during the day; any Woodpigeon active at night is usually merely disturbed and looking for a new home.

6. Swallows

violet-green swallow

Violet-green trees and Swallows rise many hours before daybreak to fly around in the dark singing and claiming their territory.

7. Petrels & Albatrosses

Petrels & Albatrosses

Squids and other aquatic invertebrates that reach the surface at nighttime provide food for many seabirds.

8. Swifts

Chimney Swift

Swifts spend the majority of their life in the air where they feed and even sleep so they do fly at night.

Not in a way that would have an influence on people on the ground or be apparent to them.

Swifts spend most of their life in the air, soaring up to 10,000 feet and remaining at a distance that keeps them safe from dangers low to the earth.

They don’t flap their wings as we know them, preferring instead to ride hot air with their wings spread out, catching a few winks in the process.

Swifts will search for thermals and fly them to the maximum possible height before falling gradually.

9. Geese and Ducks


Late winter and early spring see a lot of activity at night.

If disturbed at their nighttime roosting pond, they may fly from one pond to another many kilometers distant.

10. Songbirds

Northern Mockingbird

Some birds are recognized for their ability to sing at night.

Northern Mockingbirds and Yellow-breasted Chats are two of North America’s most famous night-singing birds. Early and late vocalists are Robins and Thrushes.

These night singers are said to be lonely birds looking for a mate.

During this song, they don’t usually fly about.

Rather, they like to stay on one perch, which can keep individuals awake who would rather be asleep.

Final Words

In conclusion, the world of avian behavior is a diverse and intriguing one, and the question of whether birds fly at night has been answered with a resounding “yes.”

While most birds are active during the day, there are fascinating species that have adapted to thrive in the cover of darkness.

Nocturnal birds have evolved remarkable attributes, such as exceptional night vision, acute hearing, and specialized hunting techniques, allowing them to take full advantage of the unique opportunities that the night offers.

From the silent and stealthy flight of owls to the mesmerizing aerial displays of nightjars, these creatures have carved a niche in the nocturnal world.

Their decision to fly at night is driven by factors that range from foraging advantages and reduced competition to protection from diurnal predators and efficient navigation during migrations.

By embracing the cloak of night, these birds have secured a foothold in a different realm, allowing them to flourish in their respective environments.

As we continue to study and appreciate these enigmatic creatures, our understanding of their behaviors and adaptations grows deeper.

The exploration of nocturnal birds not only enriches our knowledge of avian biology but also serves as a reminder of the astounding diversity and resilience found in the natural world.

So, the next time you hear the hoot of an owl or catch a glimpse of a nightjar’s graceful flight under the moonlit sky, take a moment to marvel at the wonders of nature’s creations.

Let us cherish and protect these incredible birds and their habitats, ensuring that the beauty of their nocturnal world remains an enduring legacy for generations to come.


Do birds really fly at night?

Yes, some birds are active and capable of flying at night. While the majority of birds are diurnal (active during the day), certain species have evolved to be nocturnal, exhibiting unique behaviors and adaptations that allow them to navigate and hunt in the dark.

What are nocturnal birds?

Nocturnal birds are those that are primarily active during the night and rest during the day. These birds have specialized features, such as excellent night vision, enhanced hearing, and silent flight, which enable them to thrive in low-light conditions.

Why do some birds prefer flying at night?

Birds fly at night for various reasons, including food availability, reduced competition, avoidance of predators, thermoregulation, and navigational aids. Nocturnal flying allows them to exploit food sources that are abundant at night, avoid diurnal predators, and find cooler temperatures during hot climates.

Which bird species are known for flying at night?

Several bird species are well-known for their nocturnal habits. Owls, with their silent flight and exceptional night vision, are iconic nocturnal hunters. Nightjars and nighthawks are also well-adapted to night flying and feed on insects during the darker hours.

Are there any migratory birds that fly at night?

Yes, some migratory birds, particularly certain songbirds, undertake their long journeys at night. Flying at night allows them to conserve energy and avoid potential diurnal predators during their migrations.

Do all nocturnal birds have excellent night vision?

While most nocturnal birds have excellent night vision, the degree of their visual capabilities can vary among species. Owls, for instance, possess exceptional night vision due to their large eyes and special adaptations like a high number of rod cells in their retinas.

Are there any risks to nocturnal birds flying at night?

Nocturnal birds face challenges such as increased vulnerability to artificial lights, especially during migration. Light pollution can disrupt their navigation and affect their behaviors. Additionally, some nocturnal species may suffer from habitat loss, impacting their ability to find suitable nesting and foraging sites.

Last Updated on July 29, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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