Do Birds Fly At Night

Do Birds Fly At Night?

There are many questions in life that are asked now and again, and you think to yourself – I have no idea!

This is because questions like these never really come up, likely because we take them as granted. 

When we consider birds and flying, this is no exception. We all know some birds fly during the daytime, but it’s unlikely that we’re all going bird watching at night time – so we never really consider the answer! 

Luckily, we’ve found out. Some birds fly at night – notably nocturnal birds will fly at night, and some other birds will also fly at this time, although it’s not especially common.

There’s a lot more to unpack here, so we’ve written this very helpful guide that explains everything you need to know about birds and if they fly at night.

Ready to learn more? Then read on and discover more with us! 

So, Do Birds Fly At Night?

do birds fly at night

Some birds are nocturnal, like some types of owls. They simple do all the things that daytime birds do, but at night.

However, some birds are active during the night hours because it’s much safer for them to avoid predators.

For example, many sparrows and thrushes, which are not normally considered nocturnal birds, will be relatively active during the night hours because many of their natural predators will not be out during this time – allowing them to migrate south.

Moreover, there are some birds which will not be active for the most part during night time, but if they are disturbed or there is a threat to their life or their young, they will then awaken and fly around. 

Photo by Greg Hume

Do Birds Make Noises During The Night?

You might now be wondering to yourself, if some birds are active at night and some fly around – then do some birds make noises?

Well, yes some do – but you likely won’t hear them as often as you would hear birds during the day time.

There’s several reasons for this. Primarily speaking though, the reason it’s less likely for you to hear birds during night time is because there are fewer active birds at this time, and therefore there’s less reason for communication to occur.

Next, it’s because these birds are trying to avoid detection from potential predators, or from their prey. Having said this though, it’s not impossible to hear birds during night hours.

Owls can sometimes be heard in the right places during night hours, and reed warblers have also been noted to make song sounds at night time.

Other birds such as robins and song thrushes will make sounds if they have been threatened or disturbed too, however these birds are far more likely to be heard first thing in the morning. 

Do Birds Have A “Bedtime” 

Do Birds Have A “Bedtime”? 

Whilst animals do not have an exact schedule for their sleeping as such, generally they will follow a pattern which will be the same within a few hours give or take every day.

It depends on what sleeping and waking pattern these birds operate on though.

For example, diurnal birds (active during the day) will settle in when the sun begins to set and will become active again when the sun rises.

Much like us, they have evolved to have a body clock schedule with the sun.

Indeed, much like humans, their sleeping patterns can be significantly disrupted by artificial lights, which is why some groups are vehemently opposed to streetlights in some areas. 

Nocturnal birds conversely tend to arise at dusk and will settle in around dawn. Essentially, they are on the opposite sleeping schedule to diurnal birds. 

Where Exactly Do Birds Sleep?

You might have wondered where exactly birds go to settle in for their sleep when we don’t see them. Generally speaking, birds will take shelter in very high areas of trees to avoid predators.

When the climate is especially cold, it’s common for birds to take shelter inside a crevice of a tree and huddle together to share body warmth.

In fact, if you have a birdhouse in your garden, it’s known for birds to take shelter within these when it is cold. 

However, this isn’t the case for all bird types. Birds that spend the majority of their time near water, such as waterfowl, will very often sleep whilst floating on the water.

Others, such as the flamingo, will simply stand in the water. 

Photo by Rutpratheep Nilpechr

What About Penguins?

As you will likely be aware, penguins are birds. However, they live very different lives from other types of birds.

Some penguins are nocturnal and some are diurnal, but the majority of penguins actually get sleep throughout a 24 hour period with a series of microsleeps.

Having said this though, the penguins that live in Australia and New Zealand are only active on land during night hours – and the reason for this is likely due to the climate, especially when we compare them to their South Pole dwelling cousins. 

These penguins will get their shut-eye with a series of small sleeping blocks throughout the day, but they will sleep together for warmth due to the extremely cold climate. 

And of course, when it comes to asking about whether penguins can fly at night – they are unfortunately unable to fly. 

Photo by Imogen Warren

Birds That Fly At Night For Migration

Most birds that migrate fly at night. There are several reasons why they do this:

  • They use the night sky for navigation with an innate and learned understanding of the position of the stars.
  • It is safer from other avian predators that are active in the day.
  • The air is calmer as there are no thermals created by the sun to disrupt their journey.
  • They are less likely to overheat given the tremendous physical exertion it takes to fly so far.

The Bottom Line

Some birds fly at night whereas others do not and are more active during the day, and penguins are the exception to all of these general rules!

We hope this guide has been useful for you and answered all your questions!


What birds other than owls fly at night?

There are lots of other birds that are active at night, although they may also be around in the daytime. Some of them are:
* Petrels
* Night Herons
* Killdeer
* Mockingbird

Why are the birds flying around crazy at night?

Just like us, birds will be up and in a bit of a frenzy if they are disturbed at night by some external cause. For example, a car parking up to a colony of Barn Swallow might disturb them and cause them to fly out of their roost making a racket.

Do birds sleep while flying?

Yes some do. Birds like the Godwit that migrates from one side of the planet to another, will sleep with one eye open and one half of the brain awake so they can conserve energy and keep going.

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