Why Do Birds Chirp at Night? 

Bird chirping during night time

It is a pleasant experience waking up to the chirping of birds in the wee hours of the morning, but have you ever encountered birds chirping at night? For some, this can be a lullaby, while it can be annoying for others.

Nocturnal and diurnal birds chirp at night for different reasons, such as communicating about food or territory, knowing their community, seeking a mate, organizing their flock, expressing confusion, sensing danger, practicing a song, or making their needs known as babies.

As you go through this article, you will learn more about the reasons behind these nocturnal vocalizations. You will also be introduced to the beautiful bird species responsible for such nighttime lullabies. Read on! 

Why Do Birds Chirp at Night?

Yellow and blue bird chirping during the night

Hearing birds chirping at night, otherwise called nocturnal vocalizations, may not work for all, but understanding why they make these vocalizations is a step towards accepting this natural phenomenon.

Here are some of the instinctive reasons nocturnal and even diurnal birds chirp after dark:

1. Baby Bird Vocalizations

Baby bird vocalization

Similar to human babies who cry to get their parents’ attention, baby birds chirp incessantly to communicate with their parents, whom they need for constant protection and sustenance. 

Since parent birds leave the nest at night to hunt for food, hatchlings or nestlings start chirping loudly to let their parents know when they are hungry, uncomfortable, or scared.

2. Declaration of Territory

Bird declaring territory by chirping

Birds tend to look for territories that are beneficial for their survival. This is usually an area with an abundance of food, water, shelter, and nesting sites.

Once they locate this territory, they will claim it and set its boundaries by chirping and singing. This is also their way of chasing off other birds who will try to penetrate their territory.

3. Expressing Confusion

Bird expressing confusion by chirping

In recent times, there has been an abundance of people and commercial establishments being awake at night, especially in big urban areas. 

The bright artificial lighting generated in these areas confuses diurnal birds, making them think that it is still daytime. This light pollution makes them disoriented and gives them the urge to chirp, like what they do at dawn.

I experience this phenomenon personally whenever I take a vacation in my uncle’s suburban resthouse in California, where American Robins are common.

When I was younger, I would usually hear the chirping of these birds day and night, which was normal for me.

However, during my recent visits the past couple of years, I noticed that the chirping became louder, usually around 10:00 p.m. and all the way to 1:00 a.m., which is likely due to the development of nearby establishments, particularly restaurants operating during the wee hours.

4. Seeking Mates

Bird chirping to find mate

A male bird will vocalize loudly at night to attract a female partner. This is done instinctively during the evening by both diurnal and nocturnal birds, where it is more silent and there is less competition.

This becomes more obvious in spring, which is the prime breeding season for birds. During this period, female birds get attracted to the loudest and most complex vocalizations done by male birds.

5. Flight Calls

Bird flight calls

Diurnal migratory birds often travel at night in flocks. Chirping is their primary way to communicate with each other.

These migrating birds chirp loudly when they need to signal if one of them got separated from the group, once they need to forage for food, or when it is time to take a break. 

This type of chirping, also known as flight call, is also their way to keep the flock safe and closely knit, especially as they tread toward unfamiliar areas.

6. Danger Response

Bird chirping as a danger response

Birds are very sensitive to their surroundings and can sense danger quickly. Once they do, birds react by chirping loudly to transmit warning signals to other birds nearby.

The other birds will also start chirping loudly, which creates a ripple effect. Some instances that cause birds distress are unusually loud noises, nest quaking, or a predator approaching.

The loud chirping of birds caused by the aggressive behavior of predators also alerts other birds in the area to fly away in time and escape the threat, 

7. Song Practice

Bird chirping for song practice

Hearing birds sing is naturally relaxing. What many do not know is that birds go through singing practice at night to improve their bird calls. 

Aside from improving their vocalizations in time for the breeding season, you can also catch birds singing so they can get better at communicating, signaling danger, and claiming territories, to name a few.

8. Finding Food

Bird about to chirp to locate food

When birds are able to locate food, they get excited and burst into chirping for a variety of reasons.

A bird chirping in the presence of food might be a way for it to call its comrades within its flock. This will then help them monopolize the food source against other birds.

A male bird can also be heard chirping in front of a food source to attract mates in its ability to provide food. Further, chirping will help them release more energy, making more room for food.

9. Knowing the Community

Silhouette of a flock of birds chirping

If you see a large flock of birds gathering and chirping at night, this behavior is believed to be similar to conducting a census.

The volume of the sound generated from this concerted chirping gives the birds an idea of how large the flock is, which in turn helps them to determine how sufficient their resources are in their territory.

What Kind of Bird Chirps at Night?

As mentioned, both diurnal and nocturnal birds chirp at night for a variety of reasons. However, there are certain bird species that are more likely to generate bird sounds at night.

Here are the most common birds you would expect to hear chirping at night:

1. Owl

Owl chirping at night

Found primarily in the United States and Canada, there are a couple of owl species particularly known not really to chirp but to hoot and screech at night. As nocturnal birds, though, this is expected of them.

Barred Owls can be very loud, especially during the mating season, as they break into a bird song on their own or partner with someone in a duet. Their vocalization combines gurgles, caws, hoots, and cackles.

Eastern screech owls, on the other hand, are known to hoot, bark, and screech to defend their territory. They also communicate in pairs or with their families, creating a cooing tremolo call. 

Meanwhile, I have also gotten used to observing the sounds the surrounding Barn Owls make on my grandfather’s farm, which I would describe as long and loud rasping screeches. Their chirping can be heard even up to as early as 4:00 a.m., and the household doesn’t mind at all.

Sometimes, you can also hear them create a clicking chatter and whispery begging calls, similar to how baby birds call their parents’ attention.

2. American/European Robin

Chirping American Robin perched on tree branch

The robin is a common bird species both in the United States and Europe. These birds are social in nature and are observed to gather in large flocks at night.

Being diurnal, one of the primary reasons for their high, lilting song and whistling tones is light pollution. You can also hear these birds sing when they need to defend their territory or their young or escape from their predators.

Daytime noise pollution also encourages them to sing at night, when they can be more audible.

3. Northern Mockingbird

Chirping Northern Mockingbird with its mate

Common in the United States, southern Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, the Northern Mockingbird is commonly described as a black bird with a white belly and is usually found highly perched in both urban and suburban areas. They also have a wide range of vocal repertoire.

Northern Mockingbirds can impress during the mating season by belting out different tones and notes, usually in sets of three. They can switch to different tunes frequently to show off their wide vocal range.

In fact, unmated Northern Mockingbird males can even be heard singing at night during a full moon.

Listen to the mesmerizing tune of the northern mockingbird in this video:

Calls of the Northern Mockingbird

4. Eastern Whip-poor-will

Eastern Whip poor will perched on a tree branch

Being a nocturnal bird, the Eastern Whip-poor-will can quietly roost during daylight hours due to its highly camouflaged plumage. However, as nighttime approaches, expect to hear their soothing sounds repeatedly.

Whip-poor-wills are impressive songbirds that carry a characteristic tune that rises toward the end. These birds are named after the sound of their song, which you can always hear in a sequence. 

5. Common Poorwills

Common Poorwills resting on a tree branch

This small bird can be found in the desert areas of western North America. Their plumage allows them to stay hidden in their environment, so there is a higher chance of hearing their tunes than seeing them.

The song of males during breeding season sounds like their name is being whistled continually in the middle of the night. Their bird call, on the other hand, may resemble a growl, bark, or hiss.

6. Chuck-will’s-widow

Chuck wills widow chirping up close

The Chuck-will’s-widow bears a close resemblance to the Whip-poor-will but is significantly larger and bears no white on its tail. 

Like most birds of the nightjar family, their song sounds like their name, with the first syllable being silent and inaudible from a distance.

7. Buff-collared nightjars

Buff collared Nightjars photographed during the night

Also known as the Western Nightjar, the Buff-collared Nightjar is a night bird that is often mistaken for an owl. They are mostly found in the canyons of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

These birds chirping at night can be heard almost half a mile away over dry hills. Their bird call resembles that of a large insect.

8. Black Rail

Black Rail chirping at night

This swamp bird may be found in the southeastern United States, coastal parts of Texas, the Caribbean, and isolated parts of South America. The Black Rail is known for its repetitive ki-ki-koo call in the middle of the night.

As shy and reclusive birds, it is difficult to spot them. The loud noises they make are usually indications of danger, distress, or territorial warning for other birds. 

9. Hermit Thrush

Chirping Hermit Thrush

Mostly found in North America, the Hermit Thrush is a small reddish-brown bird that can be seen mostly perched on broad and spacious spaces. They carry a delightful tune similar to the sound of a flute.

Their song is a beautiful mix of musical whistles and warbles, which can be heard up until midnight and as early as dawn. They are also active mostly during the early spring and late fall.

10. Common Loon

Common Loon about to chirp

The Common Loon is mostly seen on its own, swimming in lakes, ponds, swamps, and rivers. At night time, you can hear their cackling and howling tunes, similar to that of a wolf.

The combination of the sounds created by Common Loons gives a sorrowful and haunting vibe, which is already associated with it.

11. Yellow-Breasted Chat

Yellow Breasted Chat chirping in the wild

Yellow-breasted Chats are diurnal species of birds that are usually found in North America and southern Canada but migrate to Central America and Mexico during winter.

These birds chirp at night but mostly during spring as part of the mating season. Their song is a mash-up of hoots, clucks, whistles, and cackles.

They are also unique in a way that they can imitate the sounds of other species of birds and create their own tunes out of them. They also have the amazing ability to sing while in flight.

12. Upland Sandpiper

Upland Sandpiper chirping while on the fence

The Upland Sandpiper is found in the United States and Canada but migrates to South America in the winter. 

Male Upland Sandpipers burst into a beautiful melody that can be heard across the prairie at night time during the spring or breeding season. The sound they produce is a combination of wild trilling and ethereal whistling. 

13. Common Nightingale

Common Nightingale chirping at dusk

One might not mind the Common Nightingale if it chirps all night long. Found in Europe, Asia, and Africa, this bird is one of the best songbirds in this group, with the ability to croon more than 200 songs.

The flute-like sound of these birds singing non-stop can often be heard for long distances.

Listen to this video of a nightingale performing its repertoire at night:

NIGHTINGALE Singing in the Night *rare footage*

14. Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black Crowned Night Heron chirping up close

As freshwater and saltwater wetland inhabitants, the Black-crowned Night Heron remains active at night as it waits for its prey, which is mainly fish and aquatic creatures.

While awake, these birds chirp at night with their raspy, croaking calls, which may be related to their food hunting at night, as well.

15. Killdeer

Chirping Killdeer while standing on the grass

The Killdeer is widely found across America and mostly lives near shallow waters or open, barren fields. These night birds are awake at night when there is an abundance of insects to feed on, and you can hear them chirp.

There is a nasal yet frantic tone to their chirps, which sounds like “deee,” “tyeee,” or “kil-deee.” These birds can also make bird calls while in flight, especially as they migrate in late fall and early spring.

16. Corncrake

Corncrake chirping while on the grass field

The Corncrake can be located across Eurasia, Western Europe, and parts of Siberia. They are also usually found in meadows and pasturelands. 

Their chirps have a characteristic rasping and screeching sound, which can be heard in rural areas mostly during the mid-spring to late summer seasons.

17. Northern Cardinals

Chirping Northern Cardinal perched on a tree

The Northern Cardinal is a beautiful red bird that can be seen in the southeast and southwest United States and Canada. Being diurnal, the major reason they have to chirp at night is for mating.

Their song is described as a loud string of clear down-slurred or two-parted whistles that sound like “cheer, cheer, cheer” or “birdie, birdie, birdie.” Typically lasting about 2 to 3 seconds, it speeds up and ends in a slow trill.

18. Common Nighthawks

Common Nighthawk perched on a tree

The Nighthawk is common across North America, especially during the summer season, and is identified with their white wing stripes. Like most birds that are not nocturnal, they mostly chirp at night during the breeding season.

They can create an amazing nasal peent or beer call while flying, while males who want to attract females produce a croaking “auk, auk, auk” sound.

Frequently Asked Questions

Bird chirping at dusk

Is It Normal to Hear Birds Chirping at Night?

Yes, chirping at night is a habitual behavior in certain species of both nocturnal and diurnal birds. The frequency, time, and volume of the chirping will depend on your location, the season, and the type of birds in your area.

Some of the reasons birds can be heard chirping at night are when they are communicating about their food, territory, distress, migration, confusion, and finding a mate.

Why Are Birds Chirping at 3 a.m.?

3 a.m. is believed to be the coolest and driest hour of the entire day. During this time, bird songs or bird calls can travel the greatest distance.

From a range perspective, this is the most effective time for birds to communicate as their bird calls will reach more recipients of their message. This works better, too, when they are trying to match during mating season.

What Can I Do About Birds Chirping at Night?

If you are not used to the noises produced by birds chirping at night, here are some steps you can take to lower the noise levels in your area:

  • Close all windows.
  • Apply bird netting for small shrubs or dwarf trees.
  • Use a fan to drown the sound.
  • Purchase soft foam earplugs.
  • Play soothing sounds
  • Sleep in another area of your house where the chirping is less audible.

These steps will help you sleep better at night without disrupting any bird’s natural instincts.

After reading the article, are you now more fascinated by birds chirping at night? Do you have any questions about this fascinating habit by our feathered friends? Please let us know what you think in the comments below!

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