If you listen closely, there’s a good chance you’ll hear a variety of bird calls after dark. But what kinds of birds produce these sounds? Keep reading! In this article we’ll discuss many of the different birds that fly at night.
What You'll Learn Today
Birds That Fly At Night
Owls are perhaps the most well-known nocturnal bird. Their distinctive “hoot-hoot” calls are highly recognizable and associated with nighttime throughout the world.
There are more than 200 distinct species of owls, and almost all of them fly and hunt at night. They are adapted for silent flight so their prey can’t hear them coming.
Owls feast on a variety of foods depending on their species and what’s available in their area. Some food preferences include insects, mice, rats, fish, and small birds.
Mockingbirds are primarily active during the day, but sometimes they will take to singing and flying at night as well.
This is especially true of male mockingbirds that don’t have a mate. They will often remain active well into the night, flying from place to place and singing in hopes of attracting a female.
There are around 17 species of mockingbird found throughout the world, though only one, the northern mockingbird, is consistently observed in the United States.
Nightingales are migratory birds who fly back and forth between Europe and Africa depending on the season.
During migration, they will fly all hours of the day and night, stopping to rest only when they are tired. Even then, the males will often continue flying around and singing throughout the night, attempting to attract mates.
Nightingales produce uniquely recognizable songs and chirps. Have a listen in the video below:
Nightjars live throughout the world, on every continent except Antarctica. There are 79 species altogether.
Nightjars generally rest throughout the day, becoming active at night as they fly around searching for food. They have excellent eyesight even in the dark and are often able to pick off their prey in midair.
Nightjars eat mostly insects. Their name is said to come from the noise they make when they fly, which is a sharp, jarring sound.
Killdeer are found near bodies of water throughout North America. They are named for the high-pitched song they sing as they fly, which often sounds like “kill-deer, kill-deer”.
Killdeer hunt and forage at night to avoid being spotted by predators. This is an instinctive behavior, as they do not have the instincts to fly away when a predator approaches.
Killdeer eat mostly insects, though they will also eat seeds and berries as well. They build their nests on the ground, often in open fields.
Whip-poor-wills, like killdeer, are also named for the song they sing, which frequently sounds like “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will”. They are found primarily throughout the eastern United States.
These birds rest during the day and are active at night. When they fly, they often appear like large moths due to their meandering flight pattern.
In addition to seeing them fly, you can often hear them singing at night, especially when trying to attract a mate during the breeding season.
There are 10 species of nighthawks found throughout North and South America. These birds are not technically hawks, as they are more closely related to nightjars.
Nighthawks are most active before dawn and after dusk, when they do the majority of their hunting and flying. They have a strange, looping pattern to their flight, which makes them easily recognizable even when they are in the air.
Nighthawks eat mostly insects.
8. Tawny Frogmouth
This adorable fluffy bird is native to Australia and parts of Asia. It looks similar to an owl, though it is more closely related to a nightjar.
Frogmouths tend to sleep during the day, though they may do so with their beak open to take advantage of any unlucky insects that happen to fly into it. Once the sun sets, they take to the skies to hunt for nocturnal food sources.
Tawny frogmouths primarily eat insects, though they also enjoy other foods such as frogs, slugs, mice, and smaller birds.
As you can see from this list, owls are not the only nocturnal birds in the world. Other birds that fly at night include nightingales, mockingbirds, nightjars, and killdeer.