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Who’s Making All That Racket After Dark?  The Birds That Sing At Night
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 by eNature

Is something (or someone) keeping you awake these summer nights?

Many questions come to eNature about night birds calling and other weird and incessant noises in the dark.  It seems that there’s a lot of activity taking place when most of us expect our birds to be resting.

What’s going on?  And who’s making all that noise in the dark?

Depending on the kinds of calls, and the location in North America, they could be any of at least four bird species.

Whip-poor-wills and their relatives are famous for calling their names, over and over again, sometime into the thousands of times without stopping. Unless you like to fall to sleep to the call of the whip-poor-will, it can become annoying.

Northern Mockingbirds are well known night callers, especially if there is a full moon. Enthusiastic mockingbirds can stay up ALL night, mimicking every bird song in the book as well as other sounds such bells, whistles, and sirens. These are birds that can try the patience of the most committed bird-lover!

If the call is coming from a wetland, it is probably one of the two night-herons, the black-crowned or yellow-crowned. They make squawks and cackles, and sometimes scary noises that will wake the heaviest sleeper.

Owls make another kind of noise in the night, which can range from the hooting of great horned owls to the whinnyings of screech-owls.

All of these birds are protected by state and federal laws, and nothing can or should be done to disturb them, not matter how annoying they are. The best solution is to either enjoy them, or to put plugs in your ears.

Are you hearing your local birds’ and their squawks, chirps or cackles in the night?  We always love to hear your stories!

To listen to these bird calls and many others, please visit our Birding Audio feature. »

And be sure to use our Local Guides to find out which birds are in your neighborhood »



Would the killdeer be on this list?  I hear it after dark.

Posted by Brenda on 6/21

My favorite—-  hte Whip-poor-will.  I even have it as a ringtone on my cell phone!

Posted by Carol on 6/21

I hear that the Whip-poor-will doing the calling is the male and the female sounds totally different. . . . Is this true?

Posted by Vicki on 6/21

some ear plugs dont fit in peoples ears well.

if a creture truly is making a nuissance i dont see a problem with removing it.

Posted by scott t on 6/21

The mockingbirds in our area (southern CA) are especially “singy"in the spring. I love hearing them; from chirps to caws and then songs, it sounds like a whole slew of different birds out there in the night!

Posted by Jaycee on 6/21

I love hearing birds at night…uusually. Although, last night the strangest sound was being repeated and I dont quite know what it was.  I live on the eastern shore of MD and it sounded like screams - and not like any owl I have Ever heard (my barn or screech…).  Any thoughts?  Folks claim sasquach haha but I’m sure it was a winged creature smile

Posted by Ryan scavo on 6/21

Love the night sounds. They lull me to sleep.

Posted by Jack on 6/21

We have nighthawks here in western WA state. They are even sometimes attracted to the areas around parking lots where there’s lots of light.

Posted by Carol on 6/21

About the screams you heard, it may have been a bobcat. I have heard them scream, it sounds has if someone is being tortured.

Posted by Karlie on 6/21

Once I woke up early in the morning to what I thought was the sound of my husband signing on at the computer—It turned out to be a technologically inclined mocking bird outside our window.

Posted by D. Wells on 6/21

I remember one lovely spring evening after dark, as I was in my kitchen cleaning up after dinner, I heard what I thought was a neighbor kid goofing around in my backyard! I heard what sounded like “HeeeEEEK? YeeeAAAYAH! yyyyyeeeeEEAAAAYYA! Huh huh huh…. rrraoOOwww!” I yelled out the window “Hey! Git outta my yard!” Turns out, a BARRED OWL was hanging out on the fencepost! HA!!

Posted by Kathryn on 6/21

Screams often come from Barred Owls.  In response to Scott, you may want to consider that we humans are in the animals home, not the other way around.

Posted by Lew F. on 6/21

OK folks, exactly what is a Nightingale?  Is there actually a bird called a Nightingale, or is that a more generic term?  If so, what bird or birds are considered Nightingales?

Posted by Patricia on 6/21

Here’s a story for you. My husband and I are both fond of the northern Mockingbird and its uncanny replications of all kinds of things, but we didn’t find one in our immediate neighborhood until we moved to an area of mandated larger lots.

My husband was a devoted doglover, too, and walked Rowdy three times a day for a couple of miles each time. His late night walk usually happened pretty late as we weren’t early-to-bed folks.

We had noticed that we’d been serenadedeach morning after the move by an energetic Mocker who must have lived very close to us as he rose at about 6am in the summertime and became our wake-up call.

One evening about 11:30 as Bill and Rowdy approached the end of our lane enjoying the warm, moonlit night, they were sharply alerted to a wide-awake Mockingbird caroling right above their heads at the last tall tree at the end of the block.

“Man, that guy’s sure up for night duty,” Bill commented to Rowdy with whom he was fond of chatting (“You meet a better class of being that way, he once confided). They walked back home to a variety of tunes from the bird’s extensive repetoire.

The next night, the same interaction played out. “I wonder how long he can do both day and night duty,” Bill queiried as I asked about the trip. “Well, I guess we’ll see if he stays in that tree down by the Ball’s house.”

The third night, even though the moon still shone pretty brightly, though no longer full, it was quiet as they approached the spot. Just for fun, Bill gave a quick approximation of a Whipoorwill’s call, and from the top of the tree came a very sleepy, and somewhat washed out copy of that call that sputtered out after only one or two repetitions. “Well, Rowdy, I guess we have our answer,” Bill chuckled as they paced back towards the house, “I wonder if he’ll give us a few extra minutes sleep in the morning?”

But at just about 6am, he was up and welcoming the day, calling his territory as always. “Boy, that’s a bird after my own heart,” Bill chirped, works all the available hours in the summertime so he can sleep in the winter,” which, of course brought up a new question…

Posted by Susie G on 6/21

When we lived in Pennsylvania our neighbor had an alarm system installed.  After it was installed the company tested it for an hour or so.  The next day I heard their alarm go off. It was a mocking bird making the same “woop, woop, woop” sounds!

Posted by Ray on 6/21

We have an american robin living in our tree that starts about 3:00AM every morning.

I think it needs to get its biological clock fixed!

Posted by Glenn on 6/21

That IS its time to sing.  It just happens to be the same time you want to sleep wink

Posted by Carol on 6/21

Another bird that sometimes calls at night is the Yellow billed cuckoo.

Posted by Joyce on 6/21

I often hear Great Horned Owls in the ravine behind my house just before daybreak.

Posted by Carol on 6/21

I always hear Killdeer at night.And an occasiona; Owl.

Posted by Sue Kowatch on 6/21

I believe the Mockingbird sings at night until he gets his mate and from then on, he’s busy.  Is this true?  So when the mockingbird is quiet, you know love is in the air grin

Posted by sandra s on 6/21

I believe that young & single male mockingbirds sing at night looking for a mate. I once heard a mockingbird doing the “Pac-Man descending electronic sound” while visiting in Port Hueneme, CA, several years in a row.  We also hear Western Kingbirds here at night, which love to harass any crows around. I get very excited when I hear a chuck will’s widow, maybe once each May, as it’s so rare (we’re in an urban DFW area, and it’s obviously just passing through)! And, bird songs are welcome here any time of day or night.  Nothing can get me up quicker in the morning than to hear an unusual bird song, especially a warbler!

Posted by Carole W. on 6/21

Are night hawks and night jars the same?
in Mexico and Jamaica i heard a constant commotion that sounded like dozensa of sparrows chirping but it was between midnight and 6 am
sounds were coming from all over andc closeby. but I couild not see a thing.
a puzzlement….

Posted by harry on 6/21

The common Loon. There haunting cries and calls will make you listen night and day..A beautiful bird.

Posted by larry culleton on 6/21

Ditto, the loons!  And Spring Peepers. (tree frogs)

Posted by Carol on 6/21

I believe the nightingale is a contintental European bird, but I’m not sure in what areas.  Somewhere where the classical composers lived and listened. :?)

Posted by Ginny on 6/21

To Ryan:  PLEASE SEE ABOVE POST FROM RYAN SCAVO!!!!!! I believe I have the answer to those screams.. I hear those screams at night. I live in mandan north dakota. On this web site Enature i was shocked at what i found. Those erie screams in the night are coming from would you believe A FROG!!!!!! YES A FROG… The WOODHOUSE TOAD sits in still waters and calls at night. find reptiles on this site and find frogs. Scroll down until you come across the woodhouse toad and play the sound bite. I think you will be SUPRISED IF IM RIGHT FOR SURE!!!

Posted by Jerry on 6/21

After I go to bed at night, I love to listen for the barred owl and the great horned owl in the woods behind our home - I can hear the barred owl without having any windows open.  When I hear the great horned owl, I like to open my window to hear him better.  I also occasionally hear a whippoorwill under my window, but I never get to see it.

Posted by Ruth on 6/21

For RYAN AGAIN::: Sorry a bit of info that might be a little easier. Just Search woodhouse toad in the search bar,,, hope this helps!!

Posted by Jerry on 6/21

When I was a youngster we moved to an established neighborhood in the hills of Los Angeles. Our neighbors had a very large olive tree in their front yard. Seems a pair of mockingbirds owned that tree. The first night I never got to sleep because those birds sang all night. I was very angry at the people who sold us the house for all that racket. I never did get used to that noise. Fortunately, it didn’t last forever but those birds where constantly divebombing the poor neighbors cat. What aggressive birds! Now, they steal the peanuts I throw out for the squirrels.
I live in an oak woodland in N.CA now. By the way,
nightingales are found in Asia. At one time you could buy them as pets. Very pretty birds. I now enjoy an owl that likes our front porch. They have a nice calming sound. This is the season for finches and if you haven’t put out a finch sock, it’s a fantastic sight to watch the flocks zoom in and gobble all that seed right outside your window. You can even buy finch socks at CVS. Don’t wait! Put out your bird feeders now and enjoy the nature around you.

Posted by Linda on 6/21

Speaking of noisy birds,  we have a Downy Woodpecker that has been drumming for 3 weeks now on the floorboards of a treehouse my son buidt 20 years ago. Ocassionally it will come to our house and drum on the chimney top. It reverberates throughout the house, The poor bird must have a sore pecker by now!

Posted by Cathy on 6/21

The fisrt few years living just east of Sacramento, CA, we had had woodpeckers knocking on our roof constantly. When we had it replaced with tile, they found thousands of acorns in the shingles. They were even dropping acorns down the air vents in the roof. I guess they broke their beaks on that cement tile because we haven’t had a problem since. No more thinking that someone was knocking at the door.

Posted by LILnda on 6/21

Well Scott T, who has no problem ‘removing nuisance’ birds…this is why the birds have to now be protected by law. I wonder what kind of a nuisance people have been to birds, comparatively speaking.

Posted by Nancy on 6/21

Nancy - I too have never met a bird I consider a nuisance, and none keep me awake at night - in fact I hear them as lullabyes rather than alarms. I have more problems with the squirrels figuring out every “squirrel-proof” feeder I put up to encourage the birds to come so my handicapped son can see them when they come to feed.  Yesterday I saw that the papa squirrel had taught his 2 babies how to get food out of the feeder - they are small enough yet to not close it off with their weight.  Papa sits there and laughs at me when I open the window to tell the baby squirrels to scram!  grin  My son, who can barely move, enjoys watching them “scram” when I do that.

Posted by Ruth on 6/21

The mid May night is calm, the countless stars are shining bright and as I look out an open, north facing bedroom window to make sure the Big Dipper is still there, I hear some crazy bird that has obviously lost track of time.  It’s 2:30 in the morning for crying out loud. At first I am just confused as to why a bird is singing and carrying on in the middle of the night, then I become amused as I listen to this bird endlessly singing into the night.

The confusion ended a couple of weeks ago as my wife and I were sitting on the front porch early one afternoon.  I heard a familiar song.  Atop a power pole about 20 yards away was this crazy bird singing up a storm and occasionally turning summersaults.  I tried to keep track of how many different sounds this bird was able to produce.  I couldn’t help but laugh at this birds antics and it’s constant babbeling, I get tickled just thing about it.  I mentioned to my wife that this bird is either confused or doesn’t have a song of it’s own.  What a wonderful addition to our family.  Oh, by the way, I was able to identify our new friends (we have seen two together) as Northern Mocking birds.

Posted by Marc on 6/21


Posted by CLAUDE COVINGTON on 6/21

What gets me in the middle of the night is the squealing and hissing. Is this a raccoon’s sound? I know we have at least three adults, and probably some yearling(term?) raccoons out back in the nature preserve, but not sure what sound raccoons make. Sometimes they even sound like cats warming up to fight. Other than that, I get crow-lings cawing for breakfast at o’dawn in the morning, and boy are they loud. Finally, when mom or dad returns with chow they quiet down. We also had flickers and woodpeckers sounding for mates on our metal gutters in the spring. Finally they all found their sweethearts. It all delights me, but it also does create some rather uneven human sleeping patterns.

Posted by Karen L. Lew on 6/21

I have Peacocks and once in a while they will scream out at night while perching in a tree…like something startled them…just a thought.  You would hear them a lot though during the day.

Posted by Yolanda on 6/21

@Ruth….I also hear bird songs at night as “lullabies”, even the Robins and Cardinals at 3AM.  The one bothersome thing to me is a domestic cat fight.  Now THERE’S a nasty sound!

Posted by Carol on 6/22

I’m glad whenever I hear of birds “divebombing” roaming cats! I love cats, but they DO NOT BELONG OUTSIDE TO KILL SONGBIRDS!!! In some communities there are leash laws forbidding cats to roam wherever they want. What if neighbor dogs were allowed to roam around barking and biting whatever they please? The same rule should be applied to cats. My sister in Newport Beach keeps her 2 cats indoors for their own safety and health PLUS she loves birds too much to see them KILLED by cats! She also has a resident Mockingbird who often imitates the sound of her telephone. She runs to see who’s calling and….there he is…outside her window.

Posted by Kathryn on 6/22

We wake up every morning to the singing of house wrens. We love their happy song. We hear the “who cooks for you” of the Barred owl at night. We’re in SW MI.

Posted by Bonnie on 6/22

Where I live there is a city ordinance that cats cannot roam.  They must be leashed or remain in the house.

Posted by Carol on 6/22

I hear male robins in the spring singing through the night until they find a mate, then they stop. I live in a dense urban area and the birds and animals are here—day and night. It gives me great comfort. The screech of the peregrine falcon echoing off tall buildings downtown is not to be mistaken for any other call. We have a red-tailed hawk in our tree-lined neighborhood. I have seen owls. I love to hear nighthawks hunting in the dark. Red-winged blackbirds prefer the parks but cardinals and mourning doves live closeby. I have seen snakes sunning themselves peacefully on a rocky ledge and have learned to keep that to myself. Some folks want to remove animals instead of enjoying them, I’ve found. My cat Ninja watches kitty TV from her window perches and hunts the odd mouse who ventures indoors when the weather turns cool.

Posted by Doris Yonker on 6/22

I remember living in the city of Minneapolis, when one early morning I looked out of my 2nd story duplex window to see a Great Grey Owl staring at me from the neighboring rooftop! Also, the “BUurrrrrruuppp! BUurrrrrrrupppp!” whooosh of the diving nighthawks near streetlights at night is a cool sound in the city!

Posted by Kathryn on 6/22

Has anybody heard turkey vultures in heat??  Sound like a woman screaming. Horrible sound to wake up to in the middle of the night.

Posted by Crystal Wood on 6/22

Interesting comments.

Posted by joyce volmut on 6/22

Another great “screamer” is the limpkin. Wetland resident, not sure if it’s in Maryland. Really sounds like a woman screaming. Tends to be secretive but saw Mom with fledglings at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Florida this Spring.

Posted by Ira Rubenstein on 6/22

wow. I followed the link Ira provided and listened in awe. It did sound like a woman being eaten by an alligator!! Chills ran down my spine as I listened! That fellow that recorded it in 1989 is the bravest person! Is he still alive???

Posted by Kathryn on 6/22

OH, sorry!! It’s the link this website provided not Ira! But thanks, Ira, for the tip about the limpkin.

Posted by Kathryn on 6/22

Interesting! I hope that everyone had a great weekend,having a great week and I hope that they have another great weekend! I also hope that they had both a great Flag Day and Father’s Day! That goes for last year and all the other years that I’ve missed. I’m sorry that I didn’t say anything about this last week,but it slipped my mind.

Posted by Mike on 6/22

Oh, I forgot to mention that I like to hear the Mockingbird.

Posted by Mike on 6/22

I don’t mind being kept awake by mocking birds.  Its loud car engines and pounding rock music I can’t stand—or what about a constantly beeping car alarm?

Posted by Leslie Ephland on 6/23

When I was younger, we always listened to Bob Whites at night. Sadly, I haven’t heard that lovely call in years.

Posted by Dee on 6/23

About 10 years ago when I was working for the local utility company and had to get up early for work during a power outage, a Mockingbird sat on top of the pine tree in the yard behind mine and kept me awake until I had to go sleep in the basement. Just as you described, it was during the full moon!

Posted by Carolyn on 6/23

Some years ago when we were new to our tiny neighborhood, we would hear blood-curdling screams occasionally, especially at night.  We had met our neighbors and thought them to be very conservative people, but it sounded as if a woman was being tortured and was screaming her lungs out - terrifying!  Turns out some neighbors had a couple of penned peacocks!!!  What a relief!

Posted by Gail on 6/23

We live in a rural area, and hear lots of birds, frogs and other animals at night. A mockingbird started making “backup alarm” noises after some road work was done nearby, it was hilarious. The strangest sound I have ever heard turned out to be a blue heron at 3:00 AM. It was sitting on top of the roof of the deck and went EEEEUUUUUUUU, ooooOOOOOOaaaaaaahhhhhh. That woke me from a deep sleep!

Posted by Liz on 6/24

To:  Scott T (on 6/21)

Try a different type of ear plug - different types work better in some ears than others.  The soft foam types can be molded to your own ear.

The bird/animal was here first - YOU are the intruder!!  Does that mean we should remove you?

Posted by Pat on 6/24

I live near a river , and if you go there at night you can hear Virginia Rails carrying on like crazy ! But I’ve never seen a single rail in the day time . Most perculiar .

Posted by vanessa on 6/24

My husband and I live in the northeast at the beach.  We have a VERY vocal mockingbird who seems to sing lustily night and day.  I, for one, love it:  He serenades me when I get up in the morning, when I head for bed at night, and when I return from a day trip or weeks away. I always start and end my day smiling, no matter how the day has gone otherwise, as long as I hear him serenading me!

Posted by Barbara Ferber on 6/24

I can’t understand people who hate the sounds we are surrounded with.  Be glad there’s anything left alive besides us and cockroaches.  If you don’t want to be bothered by something, include it in your space and settle down.

Posted by Barbara Bernhardt on 6/25

I’ve enjoyed all the comments about birds at night, especially mockingbirds.  When I was growing up in a housing development in Santa Clara, CA, the mockers often kept us awake by singing all night from the street light the next street over.  In the day time, they would dive bomb our blind, elderly dachsund who could only move around the yard by following the path she’d trod out herself.  She never knew what was coming when the mocker attacked, and I never understood why the bird did it.  Had the bird attacked our cats, that I would have understood.

Although they don’t sing at night, starlings are also mimic thrushes, like catbirds and mockers.  I lived in Alameda, CA, which at the time was home to the USS Enterprise and other Navy vessels.  The starlings had learned wolf whistles.

Posted by Holly on 6/25

I have a question about a night bird that someone might be able to answer.  On the east coast and in the middle west, I’ve heard a night-singing bird whose call sounds like a rusty gate hinge. Mostly I’ve heard it near well-lit parking lots. Is that the night jar or nighthawk?

Posted by Holly on 6/25

About a decade ago, Central/Eastern Minnesota had a severe drought. With it came grasshoppers and with them came the yellow-headed blackbirds. They had a funny “rusty hinge” call we could hear during the day and even at night.

Posted by Kathryn on 6/27


Thank you!  I will definitely look into frogs in the nearby area!

Posted by Ryan on 6/27

Although I don’t hear them all night through the pheobe definetly get up before the sun shines in my east window and lets everyone know it is here.

Posted by Don on 6/27

I live in ClearLake, California (Cache Creek)
I am so blessed to be living at this location, as there are so many spiecies of birds.
From the owls to the nightingales to the whipoorwhils. Can’t count how many sounds I hear in the night and early mornings. Loving with the sounds at night to drift off to sleep with to waking in the early morning to their songs.
Then to be able to watch the migration of just so many stopping to rest here or to just watch them pass by on their way to thier destination.

Posted by Mona on 6/27

When my son was about 8 or 10 I took him camping one weekend and we had a whip-poor-will in the tree above us that called nearly all night. Poor Daniel was so upset that it wouldn’t be quiet he was in tears. I really felt bad for him but there was nothing I could do. He’s still not fond of that bird.

Posted by Dave on 6/28

I just looked up the difference between Nightingales and Mockingbirds on the internet.  Nightingales sing, and they are real thrushes.  Mockingbirds do not sing, but only “mock” and are classified as “mimic thrushes”.  Also, mockingbirds are North American, whereas Nightingales are European.

Posted by Leslie Ephland on 6/28

For a long time I would hear a call that sounded “bird like” out near my pond at night but could never spot it or figure out what kind of bird it might be although I rather suspected it was a heron of some kind.Then one evening right at dusk I was sitting on my front porch and saw a fox chase my cat right up into my drive way then it whirled around and ran right out to a clump of Pampas grass beside my pond, turned back toward the house and called the very sound I had thought was a bird for months. Mystery solved.

Posted by Sheryl on 7/5

Seems like the mockingbird takes the prize!
My (now deceased) mother developed a cough in the night and, long after it cleared, a mockingbird continued to cough, cough, cough. Contagious??

Several times what I thought were water birds were actually probably frogs—or haven’t I heard alligators crock in the night?

Posted by Marcus on 7/6

Back in the early 80s I was leaving a party in McLean, VA with my mandolin tucked under my arm when a mockingbird started up in a nearby tree. I plunked myself down on the porch steps and we duetted for about half an hour. And yes, I did play “listen to the mockingbird.”

Posted by jamie oberst on 7/6

I’ve been feeding the birds hedre at the creek and to my surprise come 6 am I hear a peck peck at my cabin door, when I open the door there sit a male and female malrards and their four little ones wanting their breakfast, they have even put ME on their feeding schdule, it is just to awesome. There are two other flocks of them ( from around 12 in each and they to are there at certain times of the day.  Could one ask for anything more from nature with given blessings of Mother Nature. Due to my physical illness this has been the most healing for me.

Posted by Mona on 7/7

My husband and I know most of our neighborhood night sounds but one had us guessing for a long time. We haven’t seen it but it’s the Woodcock going skreenk, skreenk, skeenk. Now that we know we’ll have to look for the famous courting flight next Spring.

Posted by Kathy on 7/8

Here’s a story for you.JK0-016 exam  My husband and I are both fond of the northern Mockingbird and its uncanny replications of all642-456 exam  kinds of things, but we didn’t find one in our immediate PMI-001 exam neighborhood until we moved to an area of mandated larger lots.

Posted by toter on 7/15

To Holly who posted 6/25 :
I am terrible at birding by ear
but I think your rusty hinge
is a common nighthawk and not
a nightjar . Check with the
Cornell Ornithology Lab .

Posted by Vanessa on 7/15

@Vanessa:  Thank you for reminding me of the ornithology recordings at Cornell.  I discovered that the nightjar doesn’t seem to live in the US (LOL!), so I sampled the nighthawk recordings.  It seems most likely that you’re correct; my rusty hinge is a nighthawk.

Posted by Holly on 7/16

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Posted by atmgreetings on 7/20

These birds come in pairs too, and will build a nest together in nearby dense bushes. Mockingbirds lay small bluish green eggs and will fiercely protect the eggs and their young. Mockingbirds, like Blue Jays, will dive bomb cats if they come anywhere near the nest. They will dive bomb people too for that matter.
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