What kind of birds hunt at night

Nocturnal birds: species, song & calls

Many birds can be observed during the day. But some bird species are also or even exclusively on the move at night. Which birds are nocturnal? How do you behave? And which bird sings at night? We answer this below.

When we think of nocturnal birds, the first thing that comes to mind are the owls, the hunters of the night. Although very few of us have actually seen an owl, everyone knows the somewhat ominous birds with the big eyes. And although owls make up a large part of our native nocturnal birds, the more inconspicuous species are often forgotten about. In fact, in addition to owls, there are other nocturnal bird species and even songbirds that light up the night with their lovely singing in the summer months.


Which birds are nocturnal?

The classic image of a nocturnal bird is embodied by the eagle owl (Bubo bubo), which is the largest representative of our native owls with a wingspan of up to 170 cm. But not all owls follow this example. The pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), for example, is 15 to 19 cm taller than a star.

Other representatives of our native owls are:

  • the barnacle owl (Aegolius funereus)
  • the long-eared owl (Asio otus)
  • the tawny owl (Strix aluco)
  • the barn owl (Tyto alba)
  • the little owl (Athene noctua)

Another nocturnal bird family are the night swallows (Caprimulgidae), of which only the goat milker (Caprimulgus europaeus) is at home with us. The goat milker is a very inconspicuous bird that is perfectly camouflaged by its bark-colored feathers.

Nocturnal birds: behavior

The behavior of nocturnal birds is not that different from that of their diurnal relatives. Basically, the animals have only chosen a time niche in which they do not have to compete with most of the other bird species for food or song times. Owls hunt at night - similar to birds of prey during the day - and are endowed with certain advantageous features for this purpose, for example their large, light-sensitive eyes. Milkers, on the other hand, feed on nocturnal insects, such as moths, and therefore do not compete with other insectivorous birds that mainly feed on diurnal insects.

Nocturnal songbirds also have the advantage that the quiet of the night carries their song far away and this is not overlaid by the numerous bird calls of the diurnal birds.

The nocturnal bird species sleep during the day and can only be spotted very rarely. Almost all night birds are extremely well camouflaged and move little during the day, which makes them very inconspicuous. Nevertheless, they never sleep very deeply and are always ready to flee in case of danger.

Which bird sings at night

One of the few songbirds that actually sing at night is the nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos).

You can listen to the nightingale singing here:

The small, inconspicuous bird has one of the loudest bird calls among songbirds. Its melodic singing resounds during the breeding season from the late evening hours until the early morning and has inspired many poets and writers.

Other bird calls that can still be heard after dusk are those of the partridge (Perdix perdix), the Corn Crake (Crex crex) or that of the Feldschwirls (Locustella naevia).

Another bird that can be heard at night is the tawny owl. However, it is not singing that can be heard, but the characteristic call of the tawny owl.

The tawny owl's call sounds like this:

While the nightingale uses the darkness for its song, most birds sleep during this time. Find out where birds sleep and how the animals protect themselves from the cold of the night in winter in our special article.

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I am particularly interested in animal garden visitors and have therefore done my master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial animals are a sustainable and effective alternative to many conventional products. I am also a passionate hobby ornithologist and seldom go for a walk without my binoculars.
Favorite fruits: kiwi, apple and red currant
Favorite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans