13 Types Of NIGHT BIRDS In Texas (ID Guide With Photos)
Did you recently come across a night bird in the state of Texas, and want to know what species it was?
Identifying nocturnal birds in the Lone Star State is not as easy as it might seem, since there are many night birds in the state, and it’s hard to get a good look at them in the dark.
To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common night birds of Texas in this article.
What are the types of night birds in Texas?
The 13 types of night birds found in Texas are:
- Northern Mockingbird
- Yellow-breasted Chat
- Common Nighthawk
- Eastern Whip-poor-will
- Black-crowned Night-heron
- Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
- Great Horned Owl
- Barn Owl
- Long-eared Owl
- Barred Owl
- Burrowing Owl
- Short-eared Owl
- Eastern Screech-Owl
While this is a diverse list of bird species (including nightjars, songbirds, owls, and herons), they all have in common that they are entirely or partially active at night.
Many of these night birds are found all year in Texas, but a number of them only occur in the state only during the breeding season in summer, or as winter visitors.
And if you’re wondering what birds in Texas make noise at night, read on below, as we’ll also cover the nighttime sounds these birds make.
Now let’s dive into the details, and take a closer look at each of these Texas birds:
Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
The melodious whistling song of the Northern Mockingbird can be heard on moonlit nights in many parts of Texas.
And while the Northern Mockingbird is active during the day, young males sing most actively during the night between midnight and 4 AM.
The Northern Mockingbird is a common backyard bird and year-round resident in Texas. If you have one of these songsters in your neighborhood, you’ll hear them every night.
This bird is the only mockingbird species found in North America. It prefers wooded areas as well as urban habitats with sufficient tree growth, such as parks and golf courses.
Scientific name: Icteria virens
The Yellow-breasted Chat is another songbird that makes noise at night. Similar to Northern Mockingbirds, these birds chirp at night in Texas in order to attract mates.
However, Yellow-breasted Chats are only encountered as breeding birds in the eastern parts of Texas, where they occur as summer visitors from May through August.
These yellow Texas birds are between the size of a sparrow and a robin. They have an olive-green back and a bright yellow breast, a gray face, and a distinct white eyebrow stripe.
They can usually be found in dense areas such as thickets, bramble bushes, shrubs, and along streams.
The diet of this bird consists of small insects, such as moths, beetles, ants, and grasshoppers. They also eat berries such as wild grapes and elderberries.
Scientific name: Chordeiles minor
The Common Nighthawk is another member of the nightjar family that is dark brown with white comma-shaped markings on its wings.
The bright white bars on their wings are very conspicuous during flight, and this is a great feature for identifying them.
Nighthawks are most active at dusk and dawn, and if you see one in low light conditions, it looks like a black bird with white stripes on its wing.
During the summer, the Common Nighthawk is a regular breeding bird in Texas, but it is a strict migratory species, and spends the winter in South America.
It breeds in a wide variety of open woodland habitats, including urban areas. It feeds on insects that it catches in flight.
Scientific name: Antrostomus carolinensis
The Chuck-will’s-widow is the largest member of the nightjar family in North America, and is a summer visitor in east Texas, as well as a winter bird in the lower Rio Grande Valley.
This nightjar is most active around dusk and during the night, while it rests on a branch or on the ground during the day.
While it’s difficult to see these well camouflaged birds, the best way to identify them is by their melodious 5-syllable call during the night.
They hunt flying insects, which they catch while flying low over the ground in the dark of the night.
Scientific name: Antrostomus vociferus
The Eastern Whip-poor-will is another member of the nightjar family in Texas.
While it doesn’t breed in the Lone Star State, it is a regular winter bird in coastal areas of Texas from October through April.
Eastern Whip-poor-wills are best identified by their famous 3-syllable nocturnal song, but they are largely silent when wintering in Texas.
These birds are most active at dawn or at dusk, and this is the best time to spot them as they dart through the air in search of flying insects.
Scientific name: Nycticorax nycticorax
The Black-crowned Night-Heron is true to its name, and is most active at dusk and during the night, when it forages for frogs and small fish in Texas wetlands.
This heron is a common breeding bird and year-round resident in Texas, though it can be hard to spot during the day, unless you find its day-time hiding spots.
Another great distinguishing feature of this heron are its loud squawking bird sounds, which it utters at dusk when it flies out from its roost.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are social birds, and usually nest in colonies that share the same nesting tree.
Scientific name: Nyctanassa violacea
The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron is not quite as nocturnal as its Black-crowned relative, and can be seen foraging both during the day and the night.
These herons are most commonly found in coastal areas of Texas, where they forage for crayfish and crabs.
They are summer visitors in the Lone Star State, where they can be seen from April through October.
Great Horned Owl
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
With a wingspan up to 4 feet, the Great Horned Owl is the largest owl species breeding in Texas.
It is a large brown-colored bird with two ear tufts (also called horns) and big yellow eyes. In Texas, this owl starts its nesting very early in the year, laying its eggs in January or February.
This owl is almost entirely nocturnal, and can hunt in complete darkness by relying on its keen sense of hearing.
The Great Horned Owl doesn’t build its own nest, but instead occupies the nests of other large birds in Texas, such as herons or raptors.
It is found year-round throughout Texas, and can be found in a wide variety of habitats in Texas, from woodlands to urban areas.
This owl is a fierce hunter, catching birds up to the size of ducks, and mammals up to the size of squirrels, rabbits, and even young foxes.
Scientific name: Tyto alba
Somewhat softer and less intense-looking than the Great Horned Owl, Barn Owls are characterized by their white coat of feathers, and their “friendlier” appearance.
Armed with exceptional night vision, Barn Owls are strictly nocturnal raptors and therefore hard to spot. However, they can be readily identified by their characteristic screeching calls.
And if you do spot one flying overhead by the light of the moon, you may be able to see the glow of their white underside.
These owls are present in Texas all year round, and favor open areas and farmland as their hunting grounds.
Scientific name: Asio otus
These well-camouflaged, elusive owls are smaller than the aforementioned species, and can be seen in Texas during the winter months.
They use their favored habitat of dense wooded areas to prey on the small rodents and animals that call the nearby grasslands their home.
Similar to other owl species, Long-eared Owls can fly completely silently due to fringes on their flight feathers.
Together with their keen sense of hearing, this enables these owls to catch prey by surprising it in the dark of the night.
But despite their best efforts to remain hidden, these owls can be identified by their long, low hoots.
Another great characteristic for identifying these owls is by their elongated tufts of feathers on the ears, and their droppings found underneath conifer trees close to grassy areas.
Scientific name: Strix varia
The Barred Owl was originally a bird of eastern North America, but it steadily expanded its range westwards over the past century.
This owl can be encountered in the eastern parts of Texas anywhere there are suitable habitats.
Similar to other owls, the Barred Owl is easiest to find by listening for its characteristic hooting call at night.
Their preferred habitat is mature forests bordering swamps. They readily accept nest boxes that are set up in old trees.
Scientific name: Athene cunicularia
The Burrowing Owl is a scarce resident of open areas in Texas. It digs its own burrows, but also often takes over burrows from prairie dogs or ground squirrels.
This small Texas bird of prey is active both day and night, and hunts insects and small rodents in open areas.
Due to their small size, these owls can be hard to spot in the expanse of open prairies.
They are most often observed perching on a small mound, from where they can scan their surroundings in search of food.
Scientific name: Asio flammeus
The Short-eared Owl is a highly migratory owl species, and while it doesn’t breed in Texas, it is regularly observed in the state outside of the breeding season.
Short-eared Owls are more often observed hunting in daylight than other owls species.
Together with their hunting tactic of flying low over the ground in open areas, this makes these owls relatively easy to spot.
You can encounter these owls in Texas in any kind of open landscapes, including farmland, airports, and fallow land.
Scientific name: Megascops kennicottii
Originally birds of open woodlands, Eastern Screech-Owls have adapted very well to urban habitats, and are regularly found in parks, large gardens, and golf courses.
They breed in tree cavities, and are best identified by their characteristic series of accelerating hoots.
These owls are common throughout central and east Texas and can be seen all year round.
They have a very varied diet, which includes any type of small animal ranging from worms to insects and rodents.
Eastern Screech-Owls readily accept artificial nesting cavities, which means you can attract them to your backyard by setting up nest boxes.
What birds sing at night in Texas?
The birds that sing at night in Texas are most often Northern Mockingbirds, which are the state bird of the Lone Star State.
Mockingbirds singing at night are usually young male birds trying to attract a mate. They sing at night during most of the year, except for the fall.
In addition to mockingbirds, other common Texas birds that sing at night are nightjars and owls.
Finally, Yellow-breasted Chats also sing at night, but these birds are only found in a relatively small part of eastern Texas.
And there we have the most common nocturnal birds found in Texas.
The varied habitats of Texas are home to more than 500 different species of birds, and nighttime birds make up a significant proportion of this rich avifauna.
Ranging from whippoorwills to nighthawks and owls, these night birds play a vital role in the ecology of their habitats.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the black birds of Texas.