Do Birds Fly At Night? Here’s A Surprising Answer

do birds fly at night

There are many mysteries in the natural world, and one of the most enduring is whether or not birds fly at night. For centuries, people have looked to the skies in wonder, trying to catch a glimpse of these elusive creatures.

Although there have been occasional sightings of birds flying at night, it has been difficult to determine if this is simply an anomaly or if it is a common occurrence. So, do birds fly at night? Let’s find out.

The short answer is that, yes, birds do fly around at night, but most of them are nocturnal birds. Nocturnal birds fly around at night to hunt and forage, while diurnal birds only fly around at night when they’re migrating or threatened.

But the story doesn’t end here. Here are some interesting facts about birds flying at night that you may find interesting.

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Do All Birds Fly At Night?

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Flying is something that all birds do regularly. Birds can fly at night, but how often they do so depends on a variety of factors. The majority of birds that you will see flying at night are nocturnal, meaning they are most active after the sun has gone down. 

In North America, around 30% of all bird species are nocturnal. Nocturnal birds fly at night just as diurnal birds do during the day.

The majority of nocturnal birds live in areas away from cities and towns. Instead, you will find them in woodlands, near bodies of water, or out at sea. Diurnal birds (those active during the day) usually sleep at night whenever possible in order to rest and avoid predators. 

However, diurnal birds will fly at night if they need to. One reason they don’t do this more often is that their vision isn’t well-adapted to low light levels, so flying at night isn’t natural for them. It’s more of a survival instinct.

5  Reasons Why Birds Fly At Night

Let’s take a further look at why birds might need to move during the night.

Pre-Sleep Routines

Birds are social creatures that often fly in swarms, especially around sunset. One of the most well-known birds for this behavior is the starling. 

Murmuration is a behavior designed to confuse predators and keep the birds warm before they settle down for the night. Once the flight routine has subsided and it becomes fully dark, the birds will rest for the night.


Birds are normally active during the day, but they can sometimes become disoriented and fly at night. The most common reason for this is light pollution from urban streets and houselights. 

This can confuse birds, who may mistake artificial light for natural daylight. In addition, loud noises or sudden movements can startle birds awake and cause them to fly away in an attempt to escape.

Protect Territory

Birds have a strong need to protect their territory from others who may try to take it over. One way they do this is by flying around their territory, which gives them a good view of any potential intruders. 

If they spot another bird trying to enter their space, they may chase it away. Flying also allows birds to show aggression towards other birds and defend their territory.

Search For A Mate

Flying at night is a key part of the mating ritual for nocturnal birds. When breeding season is in full swing in the springtime, males use flying displays to attract females. 

This may include wing flapping, diving, and feather flashing, often accompanied by singing and chirping. The more elaborate the display, the more attractive the male bird is to potential mates. 

Another reason for flying at night is to mark and stake out their territory by flying over it. This lets females know which area the male has claimed as his own.

Find Food

Flying at night allows birds to take advantage of a time when many insects or small animals are active. This provides them with more opportunities to catch food and helps them to maintain their energy levels. 

Nighttime flying also enables birds to carry out various behaviors, such as swooping down to catch prey mid-air. By flying at night, birds are able to take advantage of conditions that allow them to find more food and maintain their energy levels.

What Kind Of Birds Fly At Night?

Let’s take a look at some pictures of birds that fly at night and learn a little more about them.



The nightjar is a bird that is active at night or during twilight hours. There are 97 different species of nightjars found around the world, with 10 of them being more commonly known as nighthawks in the Americas. 

They typically build their nests on the ground in grasslands with some intermediate ground cover. Most nightjars have short legs and bills but long wings and dark plumage with mottled markings. Some nightjars perch along a branch rather than atop it. This helps to conceal them from predators during the day. 

At night, they set off to hunt for insects, their primary prey. They use sight for hunting and are able to catch insects in mid-air. This makes their nighttime flights all the more impressive.

Night Heron

Night Heron

The night herons are a group of seven medium-sized heron species that fly at night. These birds are found all over the world in North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. 

Most night herons have dark gray or brown plumage and are 22 to 25 inches long. These birds typically hunt for fish, crustaceans, frogs, and insects at night. 

To catch their prey, they stand still at the water’s edge and then quickly lash out to ambush their target. Night herons typically nest on platform nests on the ground or in trees.



Owls are one of the most well-known nocturnal birds. There are two families of owls: Strigidae (true owls) and Tytonidae (barn owls).

There are over 200 owl species that range throughout every continent except Antarctica.

Owls are unique in many ways: they have wide heads, great hearing and eyesight, and sharp talons. But how do owls fly at night? Well, their special feathers help to keep them silent when they fly and allow them to land without making a sound. Additionally, their flight feathers are asymmetrical. This helps to reduce turbulence and noise while they are flying.

Owls typically hunt small mammals, such as rodents or bats. To do this, they use their great hearing and eyesight to locate their prey. Once they have found their target, they will swoop down and catch it with their sharp talons.


Now you got your answer, do birds fly at night? Some do, some don’t. It really all depends on the bird species and their habits. Though not all birds are active at night, many species do take to the skies after the sun goes down. 

Thanks to their special adaptations, these nocturnal flyers can navigate and hunt in the dark. So, next time you see a bird flying overhead at night, you’ll know that it’s not just lost – it’s on a mission!


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