Have you recently spotted a bird that comes out at night in Florida? Are you curious about what kind of bird it might be?
Figuring out these night-loving birds in Florida can be quite a challenge. It’s not as simple as you might think because there are a lot of different night birds in the state, and they’re not easy to see in the darkness.
But worry not! This article is here to help you out. We’ll walk you through the most common night birds that you might come across in Florida. And not just that, we’ll also talk about the sounds they make, which can be really helpful in identifying them. So, get ready to learn about these mysterious nighttime creatures that call Florida home!
Birds That Chirp at Night in Florida (Night Birds in Florida)
- Scientific name: Chordeiles minor
- Lifespan: 4 to 5 years
- Wingspan: 23 inches
- Native to: Iceland, Greenland, the Azores, the Faroe Islands, and multiple times on the British Isles
Common Nighthawk is a dark brown nightjar with conspicuous white comma-shaped markings on its wings. They are most active at dusk and dawn and can be identified by the bright white bars on their wings during flight. These birds are regular breeding birds in Florida during the summer but spend the winter in South America. They breed in various open woodland habitats, including urban areas, and feed on insects caught in flight.
Northern Mockingbird (Medium Grey Birds)
- Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
- Lifespan: about 8 to 10 years
- Wingspan: 12 to 14 inches
- Native to the United States and in Canada and Mexico
Northern Mockingbird fills the moonlit nights in many parts of Florida with its melodious whistling song. While active during the day, young males sing most actively between midnight and 4 AM. This common backyard bird is a year-round resident in Florida and the only mockingbird species found in North America. It prefers wooded areas and urban habitats with sufficient tree growth, such as parks and golf courses.
- Scientific name: Icteria virens
- Lifespan: Typically 5-10 years
- Size: Medium-sized; about 5.5-7.5 inches (14-19 cm) in length, wingspan of 7.5-9.5 inches (19-24 cm)
- Origin: Native to North America, found in thickets and shrubby habitats.
The Yellow-breasted Chat is another night songbird in Florida. Similar to the Northern Mockingbird, these birds chirp at night to attract mates. However, they are only found in the northernmost parts of Florida as summer visitors from May through August. These medium-sized birds have an olive-green body with a bright yellow breast, a gray face, and a distinct white eyebrow stripe. They are commonly found in dense areas like thickets, bramble bushes, shrubs, and along streams. Their diet mainly consists of small insects and berries.
- Scientific name: Antrostomus carolinensis
- Lifespan: Around 5-9 years
- Size: Medium to large; approximately 11-13 inches (28-33 cm) in length, wingspan of 18-21 inches (46-53 cm)
- Origin: Native to the southeastern United States, commonly found in woodland and forested areas.
The Chuck-will’s-widow is the largest nightjar in North America. They can be found year-round in south Florida and are summer visitors in northern Florida. Active around dusk and during the night, they rest on branches or the ground during the day. Although well-camouflaged, they can be identified by their melodious 5-syllable call at night. They hunt flying insects, catching them while flying low over the ground in the darkness of the night.
- Scientific name: Antrostomus vociferus
- Lifespan: Typically 4-6 years
- Size: Medium-sized; around 9-10 inches (23-25 cm) in length, wingspan of 16-18 inches (41-46 cm)
- Origin: Native to eastern North America, often found in deciduous forests and open woodlands.
Eastern Whip-poor-will is another nightjar species in Florida. Although it does not breed in the Sunshine State, it is a common winter bird from October to April. While best identified by its famous 3-syllable nocturnal song, the Eastern Whip-poor-will remains largely silent during its winter stay in Florida. These birds are most active at dawn and dusk, darting through the air in search of flying insects. They are often heard during these times with their distinctive calls. During winter, they are the only nightjars found in north Florida.
Black-crowned Night-Heron: The Black-crowned Night-Heron, scientifically named Nycticorax nycticorax, is true to its name and most active at dusk and during the night. It forages for frogs and small fish in Florida wetlands. This heron is a common year-round resident in the state, but it can be challenging to spot during the day due to its hiding behavior. Another distinguishing feature of this heron is its unusual vocalizations, which resemble barking or loud squawking and are often heard at dusk when it flies out from its roost. These herons are social birds and frequently nest in colonies sharing the same nesting tree.
- Scientific name: Nyctanassa violacea
- Lifespan: About 10-15 years
- Size: Medium-sized heron; approximately 23-28 inches (58-71 cm) in length, wingspan of 41-46 inches (104-117 cm)
- Origin: Native to the Americas, inhabits wetlands, marshes, and coastal areas.
The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is not as strictly nocturnal as its Black-crowned relative. It can be observed foraging both during the day and at night. These herons are commonly found in coastal areas of Florida, where they hunt for crayfish and crabs. While they are summer visitors in the northern parts of the Sunshine State, they are present year-round in southern Florida.
Great Horned Owl
- Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
- Life span: up to 13 years in the wild
- Size: length of 18-25 inches, wingspan of 36-60 inches
- Weight: 2-5.5 lbs
- Origin: North, Central, and South America
The Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species breeding in Michigan, with an impressive wingspan of up to 4 feet. It has a distinctive appearance, with two ear tufts or “horns” and large yellow eyes. In Florida, this owl starts nesting early in the year, laying eggs in January or February. It is primarily nocturnal and relies on its exceptional sense of hearing to hunt in complete darkness. Instead of building its own nest, it occupies the nests of other large birds such as herons or raptors. The Great Horned Owl is a year-round resident throughout Florida and can be found in various habitats, ranging from woodlands to urban areas. It is a skilled hunter, preying on birds up to the size of ducks and mammals as large as squirrels, rabbits, and even young foxes.
- Scientific name: Tyto alba
- Life span: up to 20 years in captivity
- Size: length of 12-16 inches, wingspan of 39-49 inches
- Weight: 0.5-1.4 lbs
- Origin: worldwide distribution
The Barn Owl has a softer and friendlier appearance compared to the Great Horned Owl. It is characterized by its white coat of feathers and is strictly nocturnal, making it challenging to spot. However, its distinctive screeching call, reminiscent of someone getting strangled, helps identify its presence. Barn Owls are year-round residents in Florida and prefer open areas and farmland for hunting. Their exceptional night vision aids them in finding prey in the dark, and their white underside may even glow when seen flying overhead by the light of the moon.
- Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
- Life span: up to 9 years in the wild
- Size: length of 7-10 inches, wingspan of 21-24 inches
- Weight: 5.5-8 oz
- Origin: North and South America
The Burrowing Owl is a scarce resident of open areas in Florida. It digs its own burrows but also takes over burrows from prairie dogs or ground squirrels. Unlike other owls, the Burrowing Owl is active during both day and night, hunting insects and small rodents in open areas. Due to their small size, they can be difficult to spot in the vast expanse of open prairies. Often, they can be seen perching on small mounds, surveying their surroundings for potential prey.
- Scientific name: Asio flammeus
- Life span: up to 10 years in the wild
- Size: length of 13-17 inches, wingspan of 33-43 inches
- Weight: 7-16 oz
- Origin: North and South America, Europe, and Asia
The Short-eared Owl is a highly migratory species that is not a breeding bird in Florida. However, it is regularly observed in the state outside of the breeding season. Unlike other owl species, Short-eared Owls are more active during the daylight hours and can often be seen flying low over open areas, such as farmland, airports, and fallow land. Their hunting behavior and preference for open landscapes make them relatively easy to spot in Florida.
- Scientific name: Megascops asio
- Lifespan: Typically 5-7 years
- Size: Small owl; about 6.3-9.8 inches (16-25 cm) in length, wingspan of 18-24 inches (46-61 cm)
- Origin: Native to North America, resides in various habitats including woodlands and suburban areas.
The Eastern Screech-Owl is a versatile species that has adapted well to urban habitats. Originally birds of open woodlands, they are now regularly found in parks, large gardens, and golf courses throughout Florida. These owls breed in tree cavities and can be easily identified by their characteristic series of accelerating hoots. Eastern Screech-Owls are common year-round residents in the state and have a diverse diet, which includes worms, insects, and rodents. They are known to readily accept artificial nesting cavities, making them attracted to backyard nest boxes.
- Scientific name: Strix varia
- Lifespan: Around 10-15 years
- Size: Medium to large owl; approximately 16-24 inches (41-61 cm) in length, wingspan of 38-49 inches (97-125 cm)
- Origin: Native to North America, commonly found in forests, swamps, and wooded areas.
The Barred Owl has expanded its range westwards over the past century and is now a common bird of prey in Florida. It can be found throughout the state in suitable habitats, particularly mature forests bordering swamps. Like other owls, the Barred Owl is most easily detected by its characteristic hooting call, especially during the night. They also accept nest boxes set up in old trees for nesting.
Final Thoughts on Night Birds in Florida
As we come to the end of our exploration into the world of nighttime birds in Florida, we’ve shed light on the mysterious creatures that grace the state’s darkened skies. Identifying these nocturnal birds can be quite a challenge, given their elusive nature and the cover of darkness.
By delving into the most common night birds and the unique sounds they make, we’ve provided you with valuable insights to aid in your identification journey. Remember, these creatures are masters of adapting to their nighttime habitats, and their calls play a crucial role in recognizing them.