Do Birds Fly At Night?

Have you ever been trying to go to sleep at night, and yet you can still hear birds tweeting outside? Most birds are asleep at night; however, not all of them. So you may be wondering what these birds get up to at night.

Ornithologists have been collecting data for years on birds’ nocturnal habits. Well, this article will explain if birds fly at night and which birds you may see flying at night. 

Diurnal VS Nocturnal Birds

Most birds we see are active during the day and then sleep at night like humans. These species of birds are known as diurnal birds. At the same time, the birds we see at night are known as nocturnal because they are more active when everyone else is asleep. 

Sleeping is an essential but scary thing for any bird. This is because where and when they sleep will decide on whether they will survive or not. All birds have little tricks to protect themselves and their young from predators while sleeping.

Some birds, like the sparrow, bluebird, and chickadee, will typically roost in bird boxes or up in high trees and can be seen very close to the tree trunk. These two options provide birds shelter from the weather.

The tree trunk also provides warmth for the birds, and this is because the tree trunk retains heat from the sun from that day. Also, if prey tries to climb the tree, the vibrations on the tree trunk will alert the birds so they can fly away and escape. 

While water birds such as flamingos or ducks will sleep either in or on the water, if a predator tries to attack, the splashing sounds and vibrations in the water will alert the birds that danger is coming. These birds sleep also sleep enormous flocks, so they have an advantage in numbers against prey attacks.

Which Bird Species Are Nocturnal?

About 30% of North American birds can be seen flying at night. These birds complete various tasks that diurnal birds have met during the day. These birds include:

  • Owls
  • Poorwills
  • Ashy storm-petrels
  • Woodcocks
  • Night-herons
  • Pauraques
  • Frogmouths
  • Nightjars

You may not be surprised by some of the birds on this list. However, if you are outside at night or trying to sleep and can hear bird activity, you can guess it will be one of the birds from this list above.

Why Do Birds Fly At Night?

You may be wondering why we have nocturnal birds and diurnal birds. Some species of birds don’t have control over their sleeping schedule; it is just programmed into them to sleep during the day and be active at night.

While some birds’ body clocks wake up in the early hours of the morning and go to bed in the late afternoon. This is why different birds are active and asleep at various points in the day. 

Nocturnal birds don’t do anything that different from birds awake during the day (except maybe not eating bird food at the garden feeder). So at night, you will see nocturnal birds such as owls flying as they are looking for food for themselves and their nest of young (if they have one).

Also, you can see them doing their courtship rituals and preening themselves. They fly at night because it is better for them, as they can find and catch.  

However, another reason why you may see birds flying at night is that they have been disturbed. If something or someone has disturbed a sleeping bird, they will pass away and try to find somewhere safe to get through the rest of the night.

However, if a prey has disturbed a flock of birds, they panic and run away. There is a high chance that they will disrupt other birds nearby. Although the community will keep making noise until they know the community is up and out of the prey’s way. Then the community can all fly away together to find somewhere safe to spend the night together.

Birds That Migrate At Night

Although some birds that aren’t nocturnal can be seen migrating at night, migrating is dangerous for some birds and takes a lot of energy. You will see birds migrate from different countries as the seasons change. Some birds have a summer and a winter home. It is a survival instinct that means they can survive all year long. 

Birds migrate to different places where it will be warmer for them, so there will be plenty of food survive. Migrating birds fly between heights of 5,000 and 20,000 feet,; however, for smaller birds, migrating is a lot more complicated.

Not only is it demanding on them, but they must be aware of prey in the skies following and watching them. 

Hence, some smaller birds fly at night under darkness to keep themselves safe. They use the stars to navigate where they are going. Also, fly, ing non-stop uses a lot of energy, cr, creating eat. Therefore, flying at night keeps the birds cooler. Some nighttime migrating birds can include:

  • Warblers
  • Sparrows
  • Thrushes
  • Buntings
  • Cowbirds
  • Ducks

Other Bird Night Time Activities

There is a chance that you can hear birds singing at night, and there are two reasons why you might listen to birds singing at night. They are either telling other birds where their territory is or trying to attract a mate. 

Birds that sing at night to tell other birds where their territory is, do it then so more birds can hear them. It is naturally a lot quieter at night, so some birds start singing as they know their call will be heard over a great distance. 

However, singing at night also means more birds can hear each other. This is a great way to attract a mate too. While putting off competitors, who may try to win the affection of the same bird? It isn’t uncommon to hear birdsong at night and not not nocturnal birds.

Somurnal birds are active at night as that is the best time age for food. This can be for several reasons, and the main one is that the foodies are searching for ‘t available during the day.

For example, certain seabirds feed on fish and squid at night, whicwhiche best time to hunt for them. Also, hunting at night for some birds is more accessible, as they don’t have competition with more aggressive species for the same food. 


Birds do fly at night for various reasons. Some bird species are nocturnal, so they can be seen flying and hunting at night while everyone else is asleep.

Some diurnal birds are sometimes seen flying at night for other reasons, like migrating. This is because migrating at night is much safer for smaller species of birds than during the day. A lot fewer birds are active at night, but they all have perfect eyesight for them to be able to fly safely at night. 

Related Questions

Is it necessary for birds to fly during the night?

This goes back to the question: do birds fly at night? They do, and it is necessary for the survival of their species. Reasons for birds flying in the nighttime are navigation during migration, hunting specific nocturnal animals, and safety from predators.

How far can birds fly at night on migration?

Migrating birds are capable of some fantastic physical feats, including flying thousands of miles across the world. If they are flying non-stop as the Bar-tailed Godwit does, they can fly for ten days, and of course, at least half of that will be at night.

Is more bird food available for nocturnal species?

All the same fruits and berries are available, but the big win for nighttime hunters is all the active nocturnal animals. There is probably not more food available than there is for daytime birds; it is just different.