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25 Birds that Fly at Night (A to Z List with Pictures)

Birds that Fly at Night

Examples of birds that fly at night include an alder flycatcher, American woodcocks, Australian masked owl, barn owl, and barred owl.

There are many different types of birds that fly at night. Some, like owls, have particular adaptations that allow them to see in the dark. Others, like nightjars, use their sense of hearing to navigate the gloom.

Even common birds like sparrows and starlings will take to the air after sunset in search of food. While night-flying birds face many challenges, they also have some advantages over their daytime counterparts. For example, there are fewer predators active at night, and the cooler temperatures make it easier to stay airborne.

Examples of Birds that Fly at Night

1. Alder Flycatcher

Scientific NameEmpidonax alnorum
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethickets of deciduous trees and shrubs, usually near water, as around streams, ponds, or bogs

The Alder Flycatcher is a small, drab bird that is often overlooked. But this little flycatcher is actually one of the most accomplished night-flying birds. It uses its acute hearing to locate insects in the darkness, and it can even hunt by moonlight.

The Alder Flycatcher is a nocturnal migrant, meaning that it flies at night during its annual migration between breeding and wintering grounds.

Related Article: 21 Birds that Look Like Blue Jays

2. American Woodcocks

Scientific NameScolopax minor
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeforests, forest edges, old fields, and wet meadows of eastern North America

American woodcocks are small, chunky birds with long bills. They are mottled brown on top and white on the bottom, with a distinctive eye-spot near the base of the bill. Woodcocks spend their days foraging in woods and fields for earthworms and other invertebrates. At night, they roost in trees or on the ground.

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3. Australian Masked Owl

Scientific NameTyto novaehollandiae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe woodlands and old forests in parts of Australia – mostly southern Australia

One of the well-known night-flying birds in Australia is the Masked Owl. This owl gets its name from the distinctive black and white markings on its face, which resemble a mask. The Masked Owl is a raptor, which means that it uses its sharp talons to kill prey.

Related Article: 25 Birds that Fly in Flocks

4. Barn Owl

Scientific NameTyto alba
Type of AnimalBird
RangeNorth America, South America, Europe, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and Australia

One of the most widespread owls in the world, the barn owl is also one of the most nocturnal. It has large eyes that are specially adapted to help it see in low light, and its hearing is so acute that it can pinpoint the location of small mammals scurrying around under the cover of darkness.

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5. Barred Owl

Scientific NameStrix varia
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthwestern Canada, Washington, Oregon, and northern California

One of the most common owls in North America, the barred owl is a nocturnal predator that uses its sharp eyesight and hearing to find prey.

Related Article: 25 Birds that Nest in Trees

6. Boreal Owl

Scientific NameAegolius funereus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangein stands of spruce, aspen, poplar, birch, and fir in the vast boreal forest that stretches across much of northern North America and Eurasia

The Boreal Owl is a nocturnal hunter found in the northern forests of North America, Europe, and Asia. This owl has large, dark eyes that help it to see in low-light conditions, and its feathers are specially adapted to muffle the sound of its flight.

7. Eastern Screech Owl

Scientific NameMegascops asio
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeeast of the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic

One of the most common owls in North America, the Eastern screech owl is also one of the smallest. These nocturnal hunters have large eyes that help them see in the dark, and they can rotate their heads up to 270 degrees to scan their surroundings. They eat a variety of small animals, including insects, rodents, and reptiles.

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8. Eastern Whip-Poor-Will

Scientific NameAntrostomus vociferus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeeastern forests with open understories

This North American bird is most active at night when it can be heard singing its distinctive “whip-poor-will” song. The eastern whip-poor-will is well camouflaged to blend in with the leaves on the ground, making it hard for predators to spot.

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9. Elf Owl

Scientific NameMicrathene whitneyi
Type of AnimalBird
Rangewoodlands and desert cactus habitats in southwest Texas and southern Arizona

The elf owl is a tiny bird of prey that hunts at night. It has large eyes that help it see in the dark, and it can also hear its prey moving about. The elf owl uses its sharp claws to catch insects and other small animals.

10. Eurasian Scops Owl

Scientific NameOtus scops
Type of AnimalBird
Rangesouthern Europe eastwards into western and central Asia

The Eurasian Scops Owl is a small owl found in parts of Europe and Asia. This nocturnal bird has large eyes that help it see in the dark, and it uses its sense of hearing to locate prey.

11. Great Horned Owls

Scientific NameBubo virginianus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangedeserts, wetlands, forests, grasslands, backyards, cities, and almost any other semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics

One of the most common birds that fly at night is the great horned owl is also one of the biggest. It can grow to be almost two feet tall, with a wingspan of more than four feet.

Great horned owls have large eyes and ears that help them locate prey in the dark. Their feathers are also specially adapted to help them fly silently, so they can sneak up on their unsuspecting prey.

12. Indian Eagle-Owl

Scientific NameBubo bengalensis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeacross the Indian subcontinent

The Indian eagle-owl is a large nocturnal bird of prey. It has long ear tufts, and its eyes are bright orange. This owl hunts over open country, preying on small mammals and birds.

13. Killdeer

Scientific NameCharadrius vociferus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangealong much of the Pacific Coast, lower elevations of the Rockies, and across the southern United States, then well into Mexico

One bird that commonly flies at night is the Killdeer. This species is found in open habitats like fields and beaches all over North and South America. The Killdeer has strong wings and can fly long distances in search of food. It uses its sharp eyesight to look for insects, small mammals, and other prey on the ground.

14. Mockingbirds

Scientific NameMimidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangethe majority of the continental United States and in Canada and Mexico

The mockingbird is a medium-sized songbird that is found in North and South America. Mockingbirds are known for their ability to mimic the calls of other birds, and they are also excellent night flyers. Also, many mockingbirds will only come out at night to sing.

Read Also: Dead Sparrow Spiritual Meaning and Symbolism

15. Night Heron

Scientific NameNycticorax nycticorax
Type of AnimalBird
Rangewetlands across North America, including salt marshes, freshwater marshes, swamps, streams, rivers, lakes

One of the more unusual night-flying birds is the night heron. These large, stocky birds are most active at dawn and dusk, but they will also hunt for food at night. Night herons have excellent eyesight, and they use this to their advantage when stalking prey. They will often perch in a tree or on a fence, waiting for an unsuspecting animal to cross their path.

16. Night Parrot

Scientific NamePezoporus occidentalis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeamongst the shrub and grasslands of the arid and semi-arid interior of Australia

The Night Parrot (Geopsittacus occidentalis) is a small, stocky parrot endemic to Australia. It is the only member of the genus Geopsittacus and is one of the most enigmatic birds in the world.

17. Nighthawk

Scientific NameChordeiles minor
Type of AnimalBird
RangeIceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, and multiple times on the British Isles

The nighthawk is a nocturnal bird that is closely related to the whip-poor-will. Nighthawks are found throughout North and South America, where they hunt insects at night. These birds are relatively small, with long wings and tail feathers.

18. Nightingale

Scientific NameLuscinia megarhynchos
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeforest and scrub in Europe and the Palearctic, and wintering in Sub-Saharan Africa

The nightingale is a small songbird with a very loud, beautiful song. It is found in woods and gardens across Europe, Asia, and North Africa. The nightingale sings mainly at night, hence its name.

19. Nightjar

Scientific NameCaprimulgidae
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeall around the world, with the exception of Antarctica and certain island groups such as Seychelles

The nightjar is a nocturnal bird that uses its sense of hearing to navigate in the dark. It has large eyes that help it to see in low light, and its feathers are specially adapted to muffle sound, making it difficult for predators to locate them. Nightjars feed on insects, and can often be seen swooping down to catch them in mid-air.

20. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Scientific NameAegolius acadicus
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeextensive forests across northern North America

One of the most common owls in North America, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is a small owl that is active at night. These owls have large eyes that help them to see in the dark, and they use their sharp claws to hunt for small rodents and birds.

21. Petrel

Scientific NameProcellariiformes
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeon the open ocean or hunting near coastal waters or around islands

The petrel is a type of bird that is known for its long-distance flying abilities. Petrels can be found all over the world, and they are especially common in the Southern Hemisphere. These birds are most active at night when they use their powerful wings to glide over the ocean in search of food. Petrels typically eat small fish, squid, and crustaceans.

22. Tawny Frogmouth

Scientific NamePodargus strigoides
Type of AnimalBird
Rangemost of mainland Australia as well as the island state of Tasmania

These Australian birds roost during the day, often camouflaged among tree branches. At night, they hunt for insects, rodents, and even reptiles.

23. Tawny Owl

Scientific NameStrix aluco
Type of AnimalBird
Rangewoodlands across much of Eurasia and North Africa

The tawny owl is a nocturnal bird that is adept at hunting in low light conditions. This owl has large, forward-facing eyes that allow it to spot its prey even in dim lighting. Additionally, the tawny owl’s feathers are heavily mottled, providing excellent camouflage against the dappled backdrop of a moonlit forest.

24. Ural Owl

Scientific NameStrix uralensis
Type of AnimalBird
Rangeas far west as much of Scandinavia, montane eastern Europe, and, sporadically, central Europe through Russia to as far east as Sakhalin and throughout Japan

The Ural Owl is a large nocturnal bird of prey found in the forests of northern Europe and Asia. It has long, powerful talons and a sharp beak, which it uses to hunt small mammals like mice and voles. The Ural Owl can see well in the dark thanks to its large, round eyes.

25. Yellow Warbler

Scientific NameSetophaga petechia
Type of AnimalBird
Rangecentral and northern North America

The yellow warbler is a small songbird that breeds in North America. It is a common migrant, wintering in the southern United States and Central America. The yellow warbler is frequently seen in woods and gardens, where it feeds on insects. This bird is one of the few that are known to sing at night.


There are many different types of nocturnal birds that fly at night, each adapted to hunting and surviving in the dark. These birds use their keen senses to find food and avoid predators. Some, like the Alder Flycatcher, even migrate at night.

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