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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

Northern Mockingbird
© George H. Harrison

Great Horned Owl
© George H. Harrison

Calls In The Night

Many questions come to eNature about night birds calling weird and incessant noises. What are they?

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 famous night callers, especially if there is a full moon. I remember one hot night in Richmond, Virginia, when I got no sleep because of a mockingbird that was in top form at mimicking every bird song in the book, and a bunch of other sounds, like bells, whistles, and sirens. That bird just about drove me nuts. 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.

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.

To listen to these bird calls and many others, please visit our Birding Audio feature.

-- George H. Harrison