According to the Arkansas Audubon Society (AAS), there are almost 430 bird species in the state – a number of those are very active during the night!
Examples of nocturnal birds in Arkansas include the common nighthawk, American robin, black-crowned night heron, barred owl, northern mockingbird, and many others.
Do some of them sound familiar? Let’s jump in and see what each of these looks and sounds like!
Table of Contents
Nocturnal Birds In Arkansas
1. Northern Mockingbird
- Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Northern mockingbirds are birds you will most often hear singing at night in Arkansas. The nighttime singers are often young, unattached males or older males without mates.
They are most noisy from March to August (their breeding season) and from late September to November (while establishing winter territories).
To reduce their constantly annoying singing, consider using bird nets on trees or placing cardboard cutouts of predators like hawks or owls.
These birds are year-round residents in AR and are aptly named, as they can mimic over 200 different songs and imitate up to 35 species.
Their mimicry extends to sounds like rusty hinges, car alarms, cackling hens, and dog barks, sometimes indistinguishable even with electronic analysis.
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2. Yellow-breasted Chat
- Scientific Name: Icteria virens
Yellow-breasted chats can be often heard singing in the morning and evening during summer in Arkansas. They will also even sing at night during the height of their breeding season (May to July).
Often heard than seen, they are common around dense, brushy areas and hedgerows. These birds have a unique mix of cackles, clucks, whistles, and hoots in their songs, along with harsh “chak” calls.
They can mimic other birds, sometimes confusing birdwatchers. During the breeding season, they become more conspicuous, singing from exposed spots and flying openly while gurgling their songs.
3. American Robin
- Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
American robins are songbirds and common sights in forests, lawns, and suburbs across AR, throughout the entire year.
As winter fades and daylight increases, they will be the first birds you hear singing just as dawn approaches, giving them the nickname “wake robins.”
The song is described as a “cheery” carol consisting of a string of 10 or so clear whistles; American robins also have a sharp “yeep” alarm call or a mumbled “tuk” when communicating with one another.
Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
However, when the sun goes down, their song changes. From sunset until it gets very dark, they add soft, almost whispered notes to their singing, making their song sound elegant and intricate.
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- Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus
Killdeers can be heard throughout the state. They inhabit open areas like sandbars, mudflats, fields, and even urban locations.
Killdeers are active day and night, with noticeable nighttime activity, especially in early spring and late summer. They often congregate in places like mall parking lots and well-lit ball fields, engaging in socializing, calling, and searching for food. Their name comes from their loud, piercing calls resembling “kill-deer, kill-deer.”
Killdeer Call | Source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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5. American Woodcock
- Scientific Name: Scolopax minor
American woodcocks, small elusive birds, can be heard in Arkansas year-round from dusk to dawn. Look for them in fields near forests, especially around powerline cuts.
They’re challenging to spot due to their nocturnal habits and camouflaged colors. Listen for their distinctive “peent” call on the ground or twittering in the air.
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6. Wilson’s Snipe
- Scientific Name: Gallinago delicata
Like American woodcocks, Wilson’s snipes are also found in Arkansas. Often heard singing during winter nights there, they prefer wet fields, marshes, and bogs. Listen for them at dawn and dusk.
Recognize them by their “tuk-tuk” call from the ground. They also have an intriguing winnowing display flight, creating distinct sounds in the air. Males fly high in circles, then dive, producing longer-lasting sounds. You can observe this behavior both day and night.
They are also common in Louisiana; check out other night birds heard there in this article.
7. Eastern Screech-Owl
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
Eastern screech owls are small, stocky, and strictly nocturnal. They live in the woodlands of Arkansas near water and lower elevations year-round.
They’re most vocal near sunset, becoming quieter as the night progresses. Calls increase around full moons and before storms. Listen for the “whinny” and trilling tremolo calls. In summer (June-August), watch for juvenile hissing sounds.
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8. Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Great horned owls, one of Arkansas’s largest raptors, can be heard singing mainly after dark and before dawn. These permanent residents of the state prefer open areas near forests and make deep, loud “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo” sounds.
Females have higher-pitched calls, peaking after midnight. They may sing in duets in winter or spring and have distinctive juvenile begging calls in summer, sometimes resembling barn owls’ calls.
9. Barn Owl
- Scientific Name: Tyto alba
One of the most widely distributed species of owl in the world, barn owls are permanent residents of Arkansas.
These medium-sized owls often have a “ghostly” appearance, especially if seen at night, around open habitats, including grasslands, marshes, and agricultural areas.
Barn owls do not hoot and make bone-chilling screams instead. They hunt for rodents during the night and roost in nest boxes, caves, tree hollows, and old buildings.
They are quite common throughout the USA and are also part of Florida’s list of night birds.
10. Barred Owl
- Scientific Name: Strix varia
Barred owls are year-round Arkansas residents, found in dense forests near water. They’re active at night, known for their “who-cooks-for-you” song and “hoo-ahhh” calls, often in duets.
Juveniles have a unique high-pitched raspy hissing sound. These massive owls have mottled brown and white plumage and dark, almost black eyes.
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11. Short-eared Owl
- Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
Short-eared owls, widely distributed worldwide except in Antarctica and Australia, visit Arkansas during winter. They’re often heard in open grasslands, including fields, marshes, and even airports.
These owls have striking yellow eyes with black rings, resembling mascara. While usually quiet, they produce “voo-hoo-hoo” calls.
They are mostly nocturnal but can be crepuscular and occasionally diurnal.
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12. Pied-billed Grebe
- Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps
Pied-billed grebes, small and stocky water birds, are common around marshes and ponds of Arkansas throughout the year. Nocturnal by nature, you can hear their loud, whooping, cuckoo-like songs during the night, often duetting with their mates.
Their brown plumage, darkening on the crown and back, provides effective camouflage, making them a bit challenging to spot.
Read More: What birds sing at night in Oklahoma?
13. Eastern Whip-poor-will
- Scientific Name: Antrostomus vociferus
Eastern whip-poor-wills visit northwestern AR during the breeding season. These cryptic nocturnal birds are heard more often than seen. They hide during the day, typically in pine barrens and forest openings.
At dawn and dusk, they begin singing their famous “whip-poor-will” song. Male whip-poor-wills make calls to mark their breeding territory and to attract a mate.
Eastern whip-poor-will Call | Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
They hunt at night, catching flying insects from the ground. Similar to common nighthawks, their distinctive call helps differentiate the two species.
14. Common Nighthawk
- Scientific Name: Chordeiles minor
During the summer breeding season in Arkansas, common nighthawks can be heard singing at dawn and dusk. These medium-sized raptors with deeply split tails and long wings can be found in prairies, forests, savannahs, and urban areas.
These birds create a distinct peent sound and perform courtship displays with rapid dives that produce a booming sound as air rushes over their wings.
Common Nighthawk Call | Source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Common nighthawks are well-camouflaged during the day, with gray, black, and brown plumage and white patches near the base of their primary feathers.
- Scientific Name: Antrostomus carolinensis
Chuck-will’s-widows, nocturnal birds in Arkansas, have distinctive features: big heads, short bills, and long tails. They’re most active from April to August, particularly on full or near-full moon evenings.
They can be found in pine barrens and swamp edges, often camouflaged in grayish to rufous plumage. These birds sing their “chuck-will’s-widow” songs, which you can hear during the night.
Chuck-will’s-widow Call | Source: James G. Howes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
You might have spotted them in your headlights while driving as they love to sit on the roads and roadsides at night.
16. Common Gallinule
- Scientific Name: Gallinula galeata
Common gallinules are medium-sized marsh birds with dark plumage, white undertails, red frontal plates on their heads, and distinctive long legs and toes.
In the state, they are most common during the summer breeding season and prefer freshwater wetlands with open water and emergent vegetation.
They are most active during dawn and dusk, becoming more vocal from April to June during the breeding season. Listen for their “marsh chicken sound” and single “clucks,” which are their most commonly heard calls.
17. American Coot
- Scientific Name: Fulica americana
American coots are small water birds with black plumage, bright white beaks, red eyes, and yellow-green legs.
Although they resemble ducks, American coots are only distantly related to them. These year-round residents of Arkansas can be seen and heard in freshwater wetlands with open water and emergent vegetation around dawn and dusk.
They produce a sharp “poot” call and a screeching “kree” sound, and they are particularly noisy swimmers, so you may also recognize them by splashing water sounds.
18. Least Bittern
- Scientific Name: Ixobrychus exilis
Least bitterns are one of the smallest heron species in the world. They can be heard at night in eastern parts of Arkansas during their breeding season (May to August). They are more active at dawn and dusk and less vocal in windy or rainy conditions.
Least bitterns are common around marshes with a mix of open water and vegetation, often with cattails, phragmites, or lily pads. Males can be recognized by their soft “coo-coo-coo” and “reek-reek-reek” calls.
Identify them also by their long legs, daggerlike bills, and orange, black, and white plumage.
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19. Black-crowned Night Heron
- Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
Black-crowned night herons can be heard around wooded swamps, ponds, lakes, and mangroves in most of Arkansas.
Unlike many other herons, they’re active at night or dusk and also migrate in flocks during the night. Their name “Nycticorax” means “night raven” in Greek, reflecting their nocturnal habits and crow-like calls.
These herons often bait fish, luring prey with thrown food before striking with their long beaks.
- Scientific name: Seiurus aurocapilla
Ovenbirds sing regularly at night but at a relatively low song rate. These small migratory songbirds can be heard during summer nights in northern parts of the state.
Lister for their territorial rapid, resounding “tea-cher, tea-cher” song consisting of 8-13 phrases. They also have several short calls, including the “ple-bleep,” “whink,” and high “tsip.”
Ovenbird Song | Source: G McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Ovenbirds got their name from the nest they built called the “oven” – it is a dome-like structure placed on the ground with a side entrance that makes it resemble a Dutch oven.
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What Birds Sing At Night In Arkansas?
The most common birds that sing at night in Arkansas are northern mockingbirds.
Mockingbirds singing all night are often young, unattached males or older males without a mate. In case you want to stop their nighttime singing, try to cover your tree with bird netting or add an owl/hawk cardboard cutout to scare them away.
You might have also heard yellow-breasted chats singing in the darkness as they call out to the females, American robins and their cheery carol, or even barn owls and their bone-chilling screams.
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Arkansas’s rich avifauna is brimming with nocturnal birds. Some can be seen year-round there, like several owl species and northern mockingbirds, while others, like yellow-breasted chats, and common nighthawks visit the state only to breed.
In case you’ve stumbled upon or heard any of these birds, we hope this guide helped you identify which ones they were.