Why do Birds Fly at Night? (9 Reasons With Amazing Example)

From our childhood, At night we have been looking at the sky not just for stars, but also for bright birds that fly calmly in a cooler night environment, making me ask myself questions. Why do birds fly at night?

Yes, Birds can fly at night for for many reasons such as their adaptation, migration, and food needs, example Nocturnal birds such as barn owls, Nightjar, and night migration birds like Albatrosses, Petrels, Flycatchers.

Some nocturnal birds adapted to the dark so they will fly at night in search of food, and mates. However, some diurnal birds also fly at night for food, night migration, conserve energy, and safety from predators.

Reasons for Birds to Fly at Night are as Follows

  • The diurnal birds can fly at night to find food, to avoid competition for food resources, to avoid predators, and to migrate safely to very distant places.
  • Migratory birds travel at night for many reasons like cooler and threats free environments available when compared to the day.
  • During night stars and moons help to navigate the birds at night. The atmosphere is more stable and is cooler when compared to day time, which helps night migrating birds to fly in the cooler environment by avoiding predators as it is dark, and also to avoid the overheat of bird’s body due to long-flight and during night temperature is favorable for migratory birds. For example, Ducks and geese are night-flying birds that migrate at night.
  • Birds can make night flight calls, As night is noiseless it is easy for some birds to give a call for night-flight to its flock members to prepare and start flying in the cool night sky.
  • The time of birds flying at night can vary from species to species and due to other factors like food availability, light, and temperature.
  • The night time-flight or migration usually starts at sunset and ends before sunrise, However, most of the birds prepare for night time flying or for migration at midnight. For example, During nights, swifts spend most of the time in the air and usually reach 3000m high while migrating, where predators and other threads are less.
  • Other reasons for birds to fly at night are due to startling(disturbance).
  • Night sleeping and resting birds or simply diurnal birds Startled(disturbed) by predators such as cats, fox, etc. or people or other animals and nocturnal birds(bats, owls) cause them to fly at night abruptly as they can’t see in the dark.
  • Some birds are active during the night because of their adaptation to night low-light, soundless wing structures for fly while hunting, hearing, and eyesight Some Birds adapted for nightlife, which is active during the night, as they hunt during the night.

Why do Diurnal Birds Fly at Night?

The diurnal birds fly at night because of several reasons like finding food, cool night migration, to avoid predators and to avoid competition, etc. Let’s know them one by one in detail. 

The diurnal birds can fly at night to find food. These Diurnal birds take the night time as an advantage to find food at the sea surface, where marine-animals like zooplankton, fishes, and sea squid come to the surface of the sea at night. So to find foods that are available at night birds fly at night. For example, Albatrosses and petrels feed on marine animals like fishes and squids as they come to the sea surface at night.

The diurnal birds can fly at night to avoid competition for food resources, When there is too much competition for food during the day birds take the advantage of the night to find foods because in the night time competition for food is less, so birds find it easier to fly in the nights in search of food.

The diurnal birds can fly at night to avoid predators, As it is dark at night, diurnal birds engage in many activities like migration, searching for food, etc where predators have less probability of finding these diurnal birds as prey, So some diurnal birds chose to fly at night as it is safer in dark to avoid predators. For example, slow-flying warblers, and flycatchers fly during the night to avoid predators like hawks at night.

Other reasons may be including Night migration, Some birds engage in migration at night resulting in them flying at night in the sky. As in the night, the temperature is lesser than the day making them fly long distances and without overheating their bodies, without becoming fatigued, and also avoiding crashes that occur in day migration. 

The birds barn owls, Nightjar, and Long-eared owl are the birds that fly at night like bats.

Which Birds Fly at Night?

The night-flying birds are nocturnal, migratory birds, and other startling birds. However, nocturnal birds are adopted mostly for nighttime living and hunting whereas diurnal birds also fly at night.

Examples for nocturnal birds, diurnal birds, and migratory birds are given in the table.

Nocturnal birds exampleMigratory birds example
Kiwi,Barn owls,NightjarWarblers,Long-eared Owl,Tawny Frogmouth,  Black-crowned Night Heron.Albatrosses,Petrels.

Note: Only some of the migratory birds engage in night migration, but not all. Nocturnal birds and diurnal birds

What is the Meaning of Nocturnal Bird?

Those birds that fly at night in the dark or adapted to dark for flying, hunting using their darkness adapted features like highly camouflaged plumage, large eyes, heightened senses with noiseless feather and wing while flying and hunting preys are called nocturnal birds.

Examples of Nocturnal Birds are

  • Barn owls.
  • Black-Crowned Night Heron(Nycticorax nycticorax).
  • Nightjar.
  • Herons
  • Swallows.
  • Albatrosses.
  • Stone-Curlew.
  • kakapos (Strigops habroptilus).
  • Woodcocks (Scolopax rusticola).
  • tawny frogmouths (Podargus strigoides).
  • Petrels
  • Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos).
  • Corncrakes (Crex crex).
  • kiwi

When do Nocturnal Birds are Active? During the night in dark, these birds are active because of their adaptation. While in the day they sleep and rest.

What is the Meaning of the Diurnal Bird?

The birds, that are most active during the day, doing many activities in the day and in daylight like feeding, mating, migration, singing are known as diurnal birds. Diurnal birds rest and sleep at night.

Examples of Diurnal birds Hummingbirds, Woodpeckers, Ducks, Geese, Swans, Plovers, Sandpipers, herons, egrets, penguins, ostriches, emus, and cassowaries.

When do Diurnal Birds are Active?

During the day, in daylight or sunlight, these birds are active because of their adaptation. While in the night they sleep and rest.

Difference between Nocturnal birds which are active during the night and diurnal birds which are active during the day. According to birds adaptation for day and night, we can see remarkable changes in the body and behaviors in night-flying birds and also in the day-flying birds, These can be visualized by table easily. Nocturnal birds vs diurnal birds.

Difference Between Nocturnal Birds and Diurnal Birds

Sl. no.Nocturnal birdsDiurnal birds
1Most active in the night.Most active in the day.
2Rest and sleep in the day.Rest and sleep in the night.
3Large eyeNormal.
4Good sight at night or in dark.Poor vision.
5Good camouflaged plumageNormal or poor camouflaged plumage.
6Enhanced senses like good hearing and vision.Normal senses.
7Soundless flights(To hunt the prey)Produces sound in flight
8Mostly carnivorous.It can be herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous.

What Birds Fly at Night and Day? Nightjar, Barn owls, Kiwi and during the day are Hummingbirds, woodpeckers, etc. let’s visualize them through the below table.

List of Nocturnal Birds and Diurnal Birds 

Sl. NoNocturnal birds(Night flying birds)Diurnal birds (Day flying birds)
2.Barn owlsWoodpeckers 

What are the Names, Activities in the night, and Foods of Nocturnal birds? Nocturnal birds like Nightjar and kiwi etc can show activities like hunting, singing, and mating and feed on the insect, small mammals, and reptiles, etc let’s know more with the table.

Nocturnal bird examplesReason and activity of nocturnal birdsCommon Food of nocturnal birds.
Large-tailed NightjarHunts at nightInsects like Moths, flying termites, crickets, grasshoppers, wasps.
Tawny FrogmouthActive at nightworms, slugs, frogs, birds, and small mammals like mice.
Males sing at night to find mates.seeds, berries, fruits, lizards, earthworms, and arthropods.
Australian Owlet-nightjarFeeds at nightants, beetles, and grasshoppers
Long-eared Owl Hunts at nightRodents, small mammals, and birds
KiwiForages at nightSeeds, fruit, worms, insects, grubs, eels, amphibians
Nightingale Sings at nightSeeds, nuts, fruits, and insects
Black-crowned Night HeronFeeds at nightFish, crustaceans, frogs, waterbird eggs, small mammals

Do Birds Fly in the Rain?

No, most birds avoid flying in the rain even their wing and feather are water-resistance. They avoid flying in the storm or rain because :

  • To limit the loss of body heat in the rain.
  • To avoid the non-directional air-flow occurs due to rain.
  • To prevent the accumulation of water molecules inside their feathers.

Where do Birds go at Night?

The birds can go to different locations for different reasons such as finding food, to find favorable climates for breeding locations, via night migration.

  • At night, the nocturnal birds go to different locations to find food like insects, etc,
  • During the nights, The diurnal birds go to the sea surface to find marine foods that come to the surface at night.
  • During the night, night migratory birds travel towards their favorable climates in search of food and for breeding locations.