I recently noticed that when I fill my feeders last thing in the evening and go outdoors first thing the following morning, the seed levels don’t seem to have dropped at all.

This made me wonder, do birds fly or feed at night?

Most of the common birds that we see at our garden feeders are diurnal; this means thatthey are almost exclusively active throughout the day. In fact, the same can be said for most of the species of birds in the world. This includes songbirds and other passerines, wood pigeons, ducks, geese, and most swans all prefer to sleep and conserve energy at night.

There are some nocturnal birds native to the UK such as night herons and nightjars. The most recognisable one is the barn owl though they can sometimes be seen active during the daytime.

What do Birds do at Night

Just like humans, birds need to rest and conserve energy at night. They often spend the daylight hours when they’re not looking for food, searching for a safe place to sleep.

They often retreat to roosts and cavities, anywhere secure and safe from harm. Smaller songbirds choose to sleep high up in trees and close to the trunk. They’re clever little guys as they realise the heat from the day is stored in the trunk, and also, vibrations will alert them to any predators trying to sneak up.

Night singing is a favourite pastime of lots of birds, whether they are diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular, (active during twilight). Not only are they showing off their fine voices, they are marking their territory; sound travels further through the quiet night air. This might also part of their mating ritual; they may simply be trying to attract a partner.

Nightingales will sing throughout the night, and our little friend the robin is usually the last bird to stop singing at night and the first one up to start up the dawn chorus.

Do birds fly at night?

There are always exceptions to the rules, and in this case it is during heavy migration periods that birds might choose to fly overnight. Many varieties of garden bird choose to seek out warmer climates during a cold winter. This includes swallows, swifts, warblers, flycatchers, and cuckoos. Even your friendly garden blackbird might pop off to Eastern Europe in search of sun when January rolls around.

Birds fly at night for many reasons;

  • It is cooler, allowing them to fly more efficiently and cover greater distances
  • There is less turbulence in the air for them to battle against
  • Most of their main predators are tucked up asleep
  • The stars provide the perfect navigational system

Do birds feed at night?

Most common garden birds choose to settle at dusk, after they have eaten as much during the day as possible. They can slow their metabolism down and conserve energy, particularly during cold nights.

The robin is well adapted to eating in dim light, he is an insectivore and will continue hunting for and eating insects and grubs long after his other song mates have tucked themselves in for the night.

Final thoughts…

Now I understand why my feeders don’t get used overnight.

I love seeing flocks of birds overhead as darkness settles, knowing that the lucky things are off to find some sunshine and a varied diet.

Do birds fly or feed at night? No, and yes, not always, but sometimes. And only some species.

That’s cleared that one up then!