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20 Most Common NIGHT Birds In Missouri (+SONG ID)

According to the Missouri Birding Society (MBS), there are almost 440 bird species in the state – a number of those will sing during the night!

Examples of nocturnal birds in Missouri include the common nighthawk, American robin, black-crowned night heron, barred owl, northern mockingbird, and many others. 

Do some of them seem familiar? Let’s jump in and see what each of these looks and sounds like!

Nocturnal Birds In Missouri

1. Northern Mockingbird

northern mockingbird
  • Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos

Northern mockingbirds are birds you will most often hear singing at night in Missouri. Those who sing the most 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 MO 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.

2. Yellow-breasted Chat 

Yellow-breasted Chat
  • Scientific Name: Icteria virens

Yellow-breasted chats can be often heard singing in the morning and evening during summer in Missouri. 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. 

Yellow-breasted Chat Song | Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They can mimic other birds, sometimes confusing birders. During the breeding season, they become more conspicuous, singing from exposed spots and flying openly while gurgling their songs.

3. American Robin

american robin
  • Scientific name: Turdus migratorius

American robins are songbirds and common sights in forests, lawns, and suburbs across MO, 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.

4. Killdeer

  • Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus

Just like in Arkansas, 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

5. American Woodcock

american woodcock
American Woodcock | Source: Curtis Cobb, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Scolopax minor

American woodcocks, small elusive birds, can be heard in Missouri during summer 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. You will recognize them by their distinctive “peent” call on the ground or twittering in the air.

American Woodcock Call | Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

6. Wilson’s Snipe

Wilson's Snipe
  • Scientific Name: Gallinago delicata  

Like American woodcocks, Wilson’s snipes are also found in Missouri. Often heard singing during winter nights there, they prefer wet fields, marshes, and bogs. You will hear them around 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.

Wilson’s Snipe Call | Source: Doug HynesCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

7. Eastern Screech-Owl

Eastern Screech Owl on a branch
  • Scientific Name: Megascops asio

Eastern screech owls are small, stocky, and strictly nocturnal. They live in the woodlands of Missouri 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.

Eastern Screech-owl Call | Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8. Great Horned Owl

great horned owl
  • Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus

Great horned owls, one of Missouri’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.

Great Horned Owl Call | Source: Michael & Katie LaTourCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

barn owl
  • Scientific Name: Tyto alba

One of the most startling sounds you can hear at night in Missouri is the loud, harsh call of barn owls. These permanent residents of the state are fairly common throughout the year.

During the colder months, they find shelter in thick pine trees or barns, while in the rest of the year, they stay around farms, rocky cliffs, forests, wetlands, and open areas.

Often with a “ghostly” appearance, especially if seen at night when they are most active, they do not hoot but make bone-chilling screams instead.

Barn Owl Call | Source: Luis GraciaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Barred Owl

barred owl
  • Scientific Name: Strix varia

Barred owls are other year-round residents of Missouri 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.

Barred Owl Call | Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Juveniles have a unique high-pitched raspy hissing sound. These massive owls have mottled brown and white plumage and dark, almost black eyes.

11. Short-eared Owl

Short-eared owl
  • Scientific Name: Asio flammeus

Short-eared owls, distributed worldwide except in Antarctica and Australia, can be often heard in open grasslands, including fields, marshes, and even airports. They mainly visit Missouri during winter with some northern populations staying there year-round.

These owls have striking yellow eyes with black rings, resembling mascara. While usually quiet, they produce “voo-hoo-hoo” calls.

Short-eared Owl Call | Source: JamescandlessCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are mostly nocturnal but can be also crepuscular.

12. Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe
  • Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps

Pied-billed grebes, small and stocky water birds, are common around marshes and ponds of Missouri. 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.

13. Eastern Whip-poor-will

Eastern Whip-poor-will
Eastern Whip-poor-will | Source: ALAN SCHMIERER from near Patagonia, AZ, USA, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Antrostomus vociferus

Eastern whip-poor-wills visit Missouri 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.

Read More: What birds sing at night in Virginia?

14. Common Nighthawk

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk | Source: Ammodramus, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Chordeiles minor 

During the summer breeding season in Missouri, common nighthawks can be heard singing at dawn and dusk. These medium-sized raptors with forked 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.

15. Chuck-will’s-widow

Chuck-will’s-widow | Source: Isaac Sanchez from Austin, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Antrostomus carolinensis

Chuck-will’s-widows, found in central and southern Missouri, 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

Common Gallinule On One Leg
  • 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

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 summer residents of Missouri can be heard in freshwater wetlands with open water and emergent vegetation around dawn and dusk. Some southern populations might stay in the state throughout the year.

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.

Read More: What birds sing at night in Pennsylvania?

18. Least Bittern

Least Bittern
Least Bittern | Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Scientific Name: Ixobrychus exilis

Least bitterns are one of the smallest heron species in the world. They can be heard at night in Missouri during their summer breeding season (mostly from 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.

Least Bittern Call | Source: Niels KrabbeCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

19. Black-crowned Night Heron

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 Missouri during summer evenings.

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.

Black-crowned Night Heron Call | Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These herons often bait fish, luring prey with thrown food before striking with their long beaks.

Read More: What birds can you hear at night in California?

20. Ovenbird

  • Scientific name: Seiurus aurocapilla

Ovenbirds sing regularly at night in eastern Missouri but at a relatively low song rate.

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.

What Birds Sing At Night In Missouri? 

The most common birds that sing at night in Missouri 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.


Missouri’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.

Feel free to read our other popular guides on night birds in Michigan and night birds in Minnesota.

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