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Why Do Some Birds Sing Through The Night?
Posted on Thursday, May 01, 2014 by eNature

Is something (or someone) keeping you awake these spring nights?  Waking you up before sunrise?

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 »



When I was a child, the sounds from owls or killdeers in the dark made the night friendlier, especially after I knew what birds were crying. Now I welcome their songs in the night, and these birds seem like old friends, bringing back pleasant memories. I’ve never experienced sleep deprivation as a result.

Posted by Brian Avey on 5/3

in Michigan it’s the juvenile geese that honk all night.  In the morning it’s wonderful to wake up to the Cardinal or the House Finch singing!

Posted by jem on 5/3

During this wonderful time year, I like sleeping with the windows open to enjoy the cool night air.  This past week, a challenge has almost made me relent and close my windows.  This challenge is one persistent whip-poor-will that (as the article mentions) repeatedly calls into the wee hours of the morning.  Fortunately, I’ve adapted and now almost miss the serenade when it is absent.


Posted by John S Disher on 5/3

Here in central Fla. Chuck Will Widdow is not as persistent as Whipoorwill in its calling , but similar

Posted by Ron on 5/3

I love the mocking bird season. I’m thrilled when they come back—it means nature is A-OK.

Posted by Pat Nipper on 5/3

I accidentally unsubscribed. Can I resubscribe??

Posted by Pat Nipper on 5/3

In the summer we have the Whippoorwill and the Great Horned Owls. In the early fall it’s the screech owls right outside our bedroom window. Now it’s the Mockers at night and in the early morning the Fly Catchers and the Dove.

Posted by Jim Brewer on 5/3

the most annoying things I get at night are dogs. though I have had short eared owls in the past (which sound kinda like dogs)

normally I just get spring peepers this time of year, and katydids in the summer

I did once get a rather annoying tree frog right net to the window though

Posted by emily on 5/3

As an employee at a rehab center for native birds, both perching and raptors and being resepectful of their protected status, I can relate to the comment about “Mockers” trying one’s patience!  I love them dearly but this time of year I find myself at wits end and at 3 o’clock in the morning I dream of creating an imaginary batch of mockingbird stew!

Imagine my surprise when one windy night I didn’t hear my night caller and worried if all was well. Guess I’m hooked.

Posted by Carol on 5/3

I hear our barred owl sometimes and love the call.  I also listen nightly for our coyotes who howl delightfully.  Most people think coyotes howling means they’ve made a kill but that is not necessarily so.  They howl because the pack gets together or a long lost member of the pack returns after a separation.  Our eastern coyotes are much like wolves because they are a mixture of western coyotes and Midwestern red wolves mostly extinct now as misunderstand it.  So they are very much wolves in their family and pack habits.  They are my favorite nighttime sounds.  I’m a bird lover, wolf lover, coyote lover and all around animal lover.

Posted by Marlene V on 5/3

What could be more beautiful then the sound of Common Loons calling to each other late at night on a quite Northern Wisconsin lake? Just try to stay awake.

Posted by Roger S on 5/4

We also have Killdeer at night.  While taking my granddaughter and her boyfriend to the movies, I had the sunroof open and there he was, just calling and calling.  I just said that’s a Killdeer.  My granddaughter looks up from her phone and says “What are talking about?”.  I told her the bird sound is a Killdeer.  She finally listened and simply asked “How do you know that?”.  I explained again that that is what I have learned going on ALL OF THE BIRD HIKE OR CLASSES at either the MTOS or at SPAC.  She went back to her phone.  I AM NOT GIVING UP ON ANY OF THE YET.  I have gotten my son interested in going out for a Frog Hike and he will be bringing his daughter.  THERE IS HOPE.

Posted by Carol J Olive Branch MS on 5/4

I live in the Sonoran desert and the most annoying noise in the early morning that wakes me before I’m ready to get up is from the woodpeckers (actually I think they are either Gila woodpeckers or Northern flickers) who love our metal roof - sounds like a machine-gun!

Posted by BevP on 5/5

Don’t forget about the Pileated Woodpecker!  Kept me awake two straight nights in a motor home near Nashville year.  So beautiful and amazing when we finally saw him/her(feeding babies in a tree, that I forgave it. This was my/our first experience hearing/seeing one of these, so it was worth a couple of sleepless nights.
And, I do remember falling asleep to the Loons on the lake in Michigan when I lived there…once I found out what was actually making that sound!

Posted by Joyce Huntsville, Al on 6/7

Reading these delightful comments from people all over who understand and appreciate the marvels of nature is such a day brightener!  We all need to keep speaking up for nature.  Those who would destroy her have no problem being loud.

Posted by JT on 6/7

I cannot figure this out: owls are calling by 2:00 PM in the woods I go to every day, in Atlanta, Georgia. Any ideas as to how common this is?

Posted by Dr. Diane K. Lavett on 6/7

Most persistent bird sound now is great crested flycatcher protecting their family in the bird box 20 feet from my house. Loud but welcome !!

Posted by Ron on 6/7

Here in suburban Southern California we have Northern Mockingbirds year-round. I like them (some people don’t). Mr. Mockingbird tends to sing his full repertoire all night when he’s looking for a mate - and he sits on top of the holly bush right outside our bedroom window to do so. I must say that I like the singing much more than the “squawkingbird” sounds they make when they’re protecting their nestlings.

Posted by HeySonnie on 6/9

Waking to the first Robbin then the cardinals and finches and sparrows makes me smile.  Also hear the noise of coopers hawklets at little later.  Then all the rest of the morning song goes quiet.

Posted by Diana on 6/11
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