You are here
This Whip-poor-will is a true night bird - feeding, mating, and nesting in the dark. But a few songbirds that are active during the day also sing at night. Most renowned is the Nightingale of Europe and Asia. In North America, for about a week each spring, the Yellow-breasted Chat also sings in the darkness.
You can hear BirdNote day or night. Subscribe to the podcast!
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Night sounds, such as crickets and a Great Horned Owl]
After dark, when most birds sleep, a few break into song. Like this Whip-poor-will. [Whip-poor-will song] The Whip-poor-will is a true night bird – feeding, and mating, and nesting in the dark. [Whip-poor-will song]
But a few songbirds that are active during the day also sing at night. Most renowned is the Nightingale of Europe and Asia. [Nightingale song]
In North America, for about a week each spring, the Yellow-breasted Chat also sings in the darkness. [Yellow-breasted Chat song] Why would a bird that carries on all its other activities during the day sing after sunset? [Yellow-breasted Chat song]
Yellow-breasted Chats migrate at night. A male singing then may attract a mate more readily, because it has the sound-stage largely to itself. Most other birds are silent, and the cooler nighttime air carries sound more efficiently than during the day. Chats at night also sing shorter and lower-pitched songs, with longer gaps between songs, a song-pattern that carries well over long distance.
Once the females have all arrived for the season, the male chats go quiet at night. But not the Whip-poor-will. [Whip-poor-will song]
Did you know that you can hear BirdNote day or night? Catch it as a podcast at iTunes or on our website, birdnote.org.
Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Great Horned Owl recorded by W.R. Fish. Whip-poor-will and Yellow-breasted Chat song recorded by G.A. Keller.
Nightingale song recorded and provided by Martyn Stewart, naturesound.org Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org July 2014 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# song-05-2008-07-24- song-05b
Research cited: Canterbury, Jacqueline Lee. Songs of the Wild: Temporal and Geographical Distinctions in the Acoustic Properties of the Songs of the Yellow-Breasted Chat. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Nebraska, November, 2007.