Louisiana is famous for its rich avifauna – there are over 480 bird species there according to the Louisiana Bird Records Committee (LBRC)!
Examples of nocturnal birds in Louisiana include the common nighthawk, American woodcock, black-crowned night heron, barn 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
Night Birds In Louisiana
1. American Woodcock
- Scientific Name: Scolopax minor
American woodcocks are elusive birds found throughout Louisiana, active at dawn and dusk for around 45 minutes after sunset and before sunrise. They are common in fields near young forests, especially those with scattered cover, and powerline cuts are great places to find them.
These birds are tough to spot due to their nocturnal habits, camouflaged colors, and low-key behaviors.
You can identify them by their unique “peent” call from the ground or the twittering sound in the air.
2. Wilson’s Snipe
- Scientific Name: Gallinago delicata
Similar to American woodcocks, Wilson’s snipes are fond of wet grassy fields, sedge marshes, and bogs. These winter residents in Louisiana are most commonly heard during dawn and dusk.
To find them, listen for their “tuk-tuk” call from the ground or low perches.
What’s fascinating is their winnowing display flight. Males fly high in circles and then take shallow dives to create a distinctive sound. You can witness this behavior during both day and nighttime.
3. Eastern Screech-Owl
- Scientific Name: Megascops asio
Eastern screech owls, known for their stocky build, big heads, large yellow eyes, and horn-colored beaks, are the most strictly nocturnal owls in North America.
These owls are permanent residents in Louisiana and are commonly found in woodlands near water and at lower elevations.
They get chatty near sunset and go quieter as the night goes on. You’ll hear more calls during full moons and before storms. Listen for the “whinny” and trilling tremolo calls. In the summer (June to August), keep an ear out for juvenile hissing sounds.
4. Great Horned Owl
- Scientific Name: Bubo virginianus
Great horned owls are among Louisiana’s largest birds, measuring nearly 2 feet in length and weighing up to 3.5 pounds. They’re year-round residents in the state.
These owls prefer open areas near mature forests, becoming most vocal an hour after dark and an hour before dawn.
Their calls are deep and loud, sounding like “ho-ho-hoo hoo hoo,” with the female’s call being higher-pitched, peaking after midnight.
In winter or spring, they may sing in duets. Territorial hooting decreases in February or March when they start laying eggs. In summer, the juvenile begging call can be confused with barn owls.
5. Barn Owl
- Scientific Name: Tyto alba
Barn owls, found year-round in Louisiana, are one of the most widely distributed owl species worldwide.
Medium-sized with a “ghostly” appearance, they favor open habitats like grasslands, marshes, and agricultural areas.
Instead of hooting, barn owls emit bone-chilling screams during the night. They’re nocturnal hunters, preying on rodents, and take refuge in nest boxes, caves, tree hollows, and old buildings.
Common across the USA, you can spot and hear barn owls at night in Alabama as well.
6. Barred Owl
- Scientific Name: Strix varia
Barred owls, year-round residents of Louisiana, prefer dense deciduous or mixed forests near water.
They’re active throughout the night and are recognized by their distinctive “who-cooks-for-you” song and “hoo-ahhh” call. They often duet, and their juveniles make a high-pitched raspy hissing noise.
Can be also identified by their mottled brown and white plumage, yellow beaks, lack of ear tufts, and large, dark eyes.
7. Long-eared Owl
- Scientific Name: Asio otus
Long-eared owls are elusive, blending into open forests, marshy areas, and dense coniferous woods of Louisiana in winter.
Very rare, they come alive shortly after dusk, remaining active throughout the night. These owls are generally quiet but make distinct calls. The male’s song resembles low-pitched “hoo” notes, like blowing across a bottle.
They also have a distinctive juvenile begging call, though be cautious, as it can be confused with distant barking dogs or mooing cows.
Read More: List of birds that sing at night in Michigan
8. Short-eared Owl
- Scientific Name: Asio flammeus
Short-eared owls are incredibly widespread, found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. In winter, you can spot these nocturnal birds in open grasslands throughout the state, including weedy fields, small airport grass strips, coastal marshes, and agricultural fields with stubble.
They sport a mottled brown upper body, whitish below, with short ear tufts and striking black beaks. Their large yellow eyes are highlighted by black rings, resembling mascara!
Although usually quiet, during the breeding season, they produce a series of “voo-hoo-hoo” calls. These owls are mainly nocturnal hunters but can also be crepuscular (active near dawn and dusk) and even diurnal, though less frequently.
Read More: List of nocturnal birds of Missouri
9. Pied-billed Grebe
- Scientific Name: Podilymbus podiceps
Pied-billed grebes are small, stocky water birds with brown plumage that darkens on their crown and back for excellent camouflage. They are permanent residents of Louisiana.
These grebes prefer marshes and ponds with emergent vegetation, staying active throughout the night. Look out for their loud, whooping, cuckoo-like song, and sometimes, pairs sing together in a duet.
Read More: Example of Nocturnal Birds in SC
10. Common Nighthawk
- Scientific Name: Chordeiles minor
Common nighthawks are medium-sized birds of Louisiana, active during dawn and dusk with a visible moon. They make a distinct “peent” sound and perform courtship displays with rapid dives, creating a booming sound.
Common Nighthawk Call | Source: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
These summer residents are found in prairies, forests, savannahs, and urban areas. During the day, they’re well-camouflaged with gray, black, and brown plumage and white patches on their wings.
- Scientific Name: Antrostomus carolinensis
Chuck-will’s-widows are large night birds in Louisiana with big heads, short bills, and long tails. Their plumage varies from grayish to rufous, helping them blend into trees.
They’re often found in pine barrens and swamp edges, known for their “chuck-will’s-widow” songs. Males are most vocal in April-May, quieter in June, and back to singing in July and August. Singing can continue all night during a full or near-full moon.
Chuck-will’s-widow Call | Source: James G. Howes, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
You might have seen them while driving at night as they like sitting on roads and roadsides.
12. Eastern Whip-poor-will
- Scientific Name: Antrostomus vociferus
Eastern whip-poor-wills are common in the coastal region of Louisiana during winter. They have mottled brown, black, and gray plumage, blending with their surroundings.
These cryptic nocturnal birds are more often heard than seen, staying still during the day. They’re found in pine barrens and forest openings, singing their “whip-poor-will” song at dawn and dusk.
Eastern whip-poor-will Call | Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
They hunt at night, catching flying insects from the ground. While they resemble common nighthawks, their behavior and characteristic call set them apart.
13. Common Gallinule
- Scientific Name: Gallinula galeata
Common gallinules, medium-sized marsh birds, have small heads, thin necks, small bills, long legs, toes, and dark plumage with white undertails and red frontal plates on their heads.
In the north of Louisiana, they breed, while in the south, you can spot them year-round.
These birds are in freshwater wetlands with open water and emergent vegetation. Listen for the “marsh chicken sound” and single “clucks” – the most frequently heard sounds. They’re mostly active at dawn and dusk.
Read More: List of night birds heard in Ohio
14. American Coot
- Scientific Name: Fulica americana
American coots are small waterbirds with black plumage, bright white beaks, red eyes, and yellow-green legs. They are permanent residents in most of the state, except for Greater New Orleans, where they stay only during winter.
Despite resembling ducks, American coots are only distantly related. You can spot and hear them in freshwater wetlands with open water and emergent vegetation.
Listen for their sharp “poot” call and screeching “kree” sound, and notice their noisy swimming, often followed by splashing water sounds. They’re most active around dawn and dusk.
15. Least Bittern
- Scientific Name: Ixobrychus exilis
Least bitterns, one of the world’s smallest heron species, visit Louisiana during the summer. They are identifiable by their long legs, daggerlike bills, and orange, black, and white plumage.
These birds are often found near marshes with open water and vegetation, like cattails, phragmites, or lily pads.
Males have soft “coo-coo-coo” and “reek-reek-reek” calls. They’re more active at dawn and dusk but less vocal in windy or rainy conditions.
Read More: List of night birds found in Indiana
16. Black-crowned Night Heron
- Scientific Name: Nycticorax nycticorax
Black-crowned night herons, found year-round in Louisiana, frequent wooded swamps, ponds, lakes, and mangroves.
Unlike most herons, they are most active at night or at dusk. They often bait fish by tossing food in the water to lure prey before striking with their long beaks.
These nocturnal and noisy herons migrate in large night flocks. Their scientific name “Nycticorax” comes from the ancient Greek term meaning “night raven,” referring to their nocturnal feeding habits and crow-like calls.
Read More: Examples of nocturnal birds from Oregon
17. Yellow-crowned Night Heron
- Scientific Name: Nyctanassa violacea
Yellow-crowned night herons are robust wading birds, recognized by their long necks, large heads, and long, heavy black beaks. They’re named after the pale yellow crowns on their heads.
These large blue birds are vocal, making various sounds during the night. Their common alarm call is a sharp “quawk.” During courtship, males and females may also use “yup-yup” and “huh” calls.
While occasionally seen during the day, they are strictly nocturnal. During the day, they roost in trees and feed at night, primarily on crabs and crayfish.
Read More: Nocturnal birds of Georgia
18. Northern Mockingbird
- Scientific name: Mimus polyglottos
Northern mockingbirds are commonly heard at night in Louisiana, with the nighttime singers often being young, unattached males or older males without mates.
To reduce their constant singing, you can use bird nets on trees or set up cardboard cutouts of predators like hawks or owls.
These birds are year-round residents in the state, and their translated Latin name, “many-tongued mimic,” is well-deserved. They can imitate over 35 species and learn more than 200 songs in their lifetime!
Their mimicry extends to sounds like rusty hinges, car alarms, cackling hens, and dog barks, often indistinguishable from the real thing.
Northern Mockingbird Call | Source: Sandtouch Limited Company, a Texas limited liability company, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Read More: What birds sing during the night in Texas?
19. Yellow-breasted Chat
- Scientific Name: Icteria virens
Yellow-breasted chats are large songbirds with olive-green plumage, bright yellow breasts, and distinctive face markings. They migrate to Mexico and Central America in winter but can be heard singing in the morning, evening, and even at night during the breeding season in Louisiana.
They’re often heard more than seen and frequent dense, brushy areas and hedgerows. Their songs feature a unique mix of cackles, clucks, whistles, hoots, and harsh “chak” calls.
Yellow-breasted chats can mimic other birds, sometimes causing confusion. During the breeding season, they become more conspicuous, singing from exposed spots and flying openly while gurgling their songs.
Read More: List of night birds in Massachusetts
20. American Robin
- Scientific name: Turdus migratorius
American robins, common songbirds in Louisiana year-round, are often found in forests, lawns, and suburbs across the state.
As winter turns to spring and daylight grows, they earn the nickname “wake robins” for being among the first birds heard at dawn. Their song is a “cheery” carol, a series of clear whistles, along with a sharp “yeep” alarm call and a mumbled “tuk” for communication.
American Robin Song | Source: G. McGrane, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
At sunset, their song shifts, adding soft, almost whispered notes, creating an elegant and intricate evening melody.
What Birds Sing At Night In Louisiana?
The most common birds that sing at night in Louisiana 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.
Louisiana’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, least bitterns, 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.