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

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

During the day, many of the lovely birds that we observe in our gardens will return to their nests to sleep. Diurnal birds, unable to sight at night, will roost during the night hours; Owls and Nightjars, on the other hand, will hunt at night. Any bird if scared may fly at night.

Common garden birds that visit your yard throughout the day are unable to fly at night due to how their eyes work in low light or dark; yet, certain species thrive at nighttime.

Understanding what birds do at night can help you figure out whether or not they fly at night, according to studies. Have you ever thought about whether or not birds can fly at night? What if they roost during the night? What are our feathered companions up to while we get our 40 winks?

Fortunately, the solutions to these concerns have been thoroughly explored. Ornithologists and birders have amassed a wealth of information about birds’ nocturnal behavior. According to the majority of studies, many birds live lives that are just as exciting at night as they are during the day.

You may be shocked to learn about nighttime bird behavior. This article contains the answers to various thought-provoking queries on what birds do at nighttime.

Do Birds Fly at Night?

Many birds spend their nights curled down in a thicket or shrub. Similarly, there are birds that are awake and fly around at all hours of the day and night. In the United States, 30 percent of birds fly at nighttime.

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, for example.

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 comes 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?

Nocturnal birds are those that prefer to fly at night. Their bodies are programmed to detect the sounds and sensations produced by prey during the night. The first nighttime bird that comes to mind is the owl, which has the physical ability to fly at nighttime.

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 moon 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

Squid 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 kilometer 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.

If alarmed, some Diurnal birds fly at night

Despite the fact that most typical tiny garden birds cannot sight in the dark, they are capable of flying at night if alarmed. The bustle all around birds in built-up cities is almost never-ending with humans and cars upsetting them at all times of the night.

They’ve matured to the stage where they can put up with the turmoil and noise. However, birds that nest in trees, in particular, may be startled by people below and flee if they believe they are approaching.

Final Words

The realm of nighttime flying birds is a fascinating place to visit. They exist in a parallel realm to ours, and their bodies are remarkable evolutionary specimens. Birds not only fly at night, but they also have their own set of mating rituals, roosting habits, feathers, and hunting strategies.

Since most birds species are diurnal, they cannot see well enough at night, but they will fly at night if frightened or to evade predators. In the wild, foxes or badgers may be a concern, but in the suburbs, cats are the most common nighttime and daytime predators of wild birds.


Is it possible for birds to see in the dark?

The majority of nocturnal bird species can sight in the dark. Examine the eyes of a Great Horned Owl to observe how clever they’ve developed through time. At night, large eyes capture more ambient light than we’re used to seeing.

This enhanced vision allows nocturnal birds to stay hidden and away from predators and humans during the night. Their increased sense of smell and facial discs let them distinguish between friend and foe in the dark.

What else do birds do at night?

In addition to flying, nocturnal birds hunt for food, groom their feathers, engage in courtship rituals, and engage in all of the same behaviors as daytime birds. Many people are enthralled by the prospect of hearing birdsong at night. Nocturnal birds do not sing at night since doing so might reveal their superior position over prey. It could be an owl hoot if you hear birdsong late at night.

Is it possible for birds to fly at night?

Yes, some birds have the ability to fly at night, and there are some common reasons for flying at night. In specific circumstances, some diurnal birds (birds that are active during the day) can be active at night. Many diurnal birds, such as sparrows and thrushes, participate in night migration, for example. Small birds sometimes migrate at night to avoid deadly predators such as eagles and hawks, which are only active during the day.

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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