Why Do Birds Chirp At Night? [5 Nocturnal Chirpers]

why do birds chirp at night

When you’re lying in bed at night, the last thing you want is to listen to the birds chirping outside your window. Most birds are active during daylight hours so you don’t expect to hear bird song at night.

For some birds, chirping at night is a sign of danger but for others it’s a way of life. Here we look at the reason why some diurnal birds will chirp at night and find out about a few nocturnal birds who may keep you awake.

So, why exactly do birds chirp at night?

Birds rise early and settle down at dusk and the dawn chorus is the first sign that morning has come. As dusk draws in, most birds begin to settle down for the night. Once night has fallen you shouldn’t then hear them again until the morning.

  • Sometimes birds chirp at night because they are quite simply confused. With towns and cities expanding all the time, streetlights and light pollution can affect birds sleeping habits. Some birds such as robins and thrushes can be fooled in to thinking that it is dusk, when it is in fact the middle of the night. For this reason they will remain active and continue to sing when they should be resting.
  • Just like us, birds react to danger. If they suddenly feel any form of threat, such as the nest shaking or an extreme loud noise, this could wake them and they can start to sing in alarm. Just as with the dawn chorus, if one bird starts to sing, others will join in.

Nocturnal birds

There are, of course, many birds which are active during the night and if you hear birds chirping it is most likely to be one of these. There are nocturnal birds all over the country and here are just a few who may be keeping you awake at night.

1. Owls

barn owls mating

When you think of birds who are active during the night, the main one that most people will think of is owls.

Owls can be found throughout the United States and Canada, and there are many different species. Owls do not really chirp but make a hooting or screeching noise which is easily identifiable.

  • Barred owls will not only sing throughout the night but during the breeding season you may hear a pair of them calling to each other.
  • Barn owls make a screeching sound during the night and younger owls can make a quieter noise tried to attract their parents attention.

2. American Robin

american robin

The robin is a very popular and common bird and also a very active one. While predominantly active during the day, this is one species which has been particularly affected by urbanization.

The effect of artificial lighting and light pollution can easily fool the robin into believing that it is still daytime or evening dusk. For this reason is not unusual to hear robins singing at night.

3. Mockingbird


The northern mockingbird is another nocturnal bird which can be found throughout the United States, southern parts of Canada, and down in to Mexico and the Caribbean.

This is possibly the most common bird which is heard during the night, particularly in built-up areas. Their call can be a long chirp, or they will sing a melody. They are also excellent mimics and have a tendency to impersonate other birds, and this may make you think that these are the birds who are awake and singing.

4. Eastern whip-poor-will

eastern whip-poor-will

Whip-poor-wills are most active at night when you can hear their loud song. During the winter they can be heard in Central America and south-eastern parts of the United States, and other times of the year they range from central Canada and over to  Oklahoma and Georgia.

During the night they can sing for several minutes at a time and it is the sound of their song which gives them their name.

5. Black rail

black rail

The black rail is found in marshy areas and they are endangered as more and more marsh areas are disappearing. They live in coastal parts of Texas, the Caribbean, Florida and California.

You will hear them singing during the night with a ki-ki-krrrr noise which can make them sound aggressive, and may be a territorial warning to other birds.

For birdwatchers, night time can be just as active as daytime for seeing and hearing birds and yet many birders choose not to go out after dark. Some nocturnal birds can only be seen when they come out to sing during the night.

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