Saturday, May 31, 2008

Night Birds

Go out into your yard some night and listen, and you may hear some birds that only come out after dark. One of the most common is the Common Nighthawk (click to hear). This bird flies at dusk and calls frequenly as he feeds on insects. I see and hear it commonly over the downtown areas of towns like Curwensville and Clearfield. In flight, it looks like a brown seagull.

Another bird that will sometimes fly in your neighborhood is the Great Horned Owl. Because of its reclusive habits, you'll be lucky to see this bird, unless you can startle it on its perch during the day. This is the biggest owl you'll find regularly in Pennsylvania, with a wingspan of about five feet. These birds will fly into neighborhoods, over fields, and in the deep forest looking for prey.

You'll have to venture into the woods at night to find the Eastern Screech Owl. This bird makes the spookiest of all nighttime noises. It's a little owl at about 8" high, but makes a big noise. These guys are travellers, moving miles and miles in a single night- you can track their progress across the countryside as the call periodically.

The noisiest of noisy forest birds is the Whippoorwill. These little birds will make their distinctive call for hours on end, sometimes from a single perch. If you happen to camp in one's neighborhood, you may feel like shooing him away after an hour or more of calling! The looks of this bird might explain why they fly at night (well, probably not). But they are one of the ugliest of Pennsylvania birds.


  1. Anonymous9:31 PM

    Hoover...this is crazy. We've been having a group of screeching birds that show up at our place about 10:00 every night and they just sit around at a chosen spot and all take their turn screeching. We have a HUGE flock of starlings that come in every evening and leave in the morning, and we assume these birds come in to feed on them. We've been trying and trying to figure out what they are. I jumped on Google to try once again to find out what they are and I typed "pennsylvania night birds" and you're blog was the entry was the second result listed! I was like, "What!? That's crazy!" And then I was even more please to find that your list of night birds and links to their sounds would solve the puzzle for us. It seems that we have a group of Great Horned Owls.'s "juvenal screech" recording is exactly what we hear, but there are about 5 or 6 of them around our place. I assume when they say "juvenal" that they mean juvenile? Is that the sound of baby Great Horns? We never hear the other sounds of adult Great Horns, just the screeching. It's so cool that you, of all websites that could be out there to answer our delima, it was one of my friend's that had the answer. So cool. Thanks!!
    ~ Tom Fisch

  2. Ellie9:23 PM

    Thank you for helping me and my 9 yr old son identify the Eastern Screech Owl as the bird we hear at night in our backyard here in Erie PA!

  3. Anonymous11:44 PM

    Great page. I think it just solved our mystery birds we have been hearing for the past week or so at about 10:00 pm every night. I think it sounds like the greater sooty owl-juvenile.

  4. Ever since I was little, I have been trying to id what makes this nighttime sound. Some say tree frogs, but the ones I've found online are not the ones.
    Only in western pa at night in the summer...further east and I don't hear them.
    They are definitely in the trees and go "ch ch ch... ch ch ch ch...

  5. Hi Gina- Sounds like a Katydid. Not a frog but a grasshopper like insect.

  6. IS katydids!! I thought they were daytime insects...thank you so much!