If you want to go birding, the best time to do so is during the day. However, all diurnal birds do not remain active throughout the day; instead, they engage in activities at specific times.
Most diurnal species are most active during the dawn chorus. Also, they tend to fly around throughout the early morning in search of their food. As dusk approaches, they spend most of their time seeking roosts. Mid-afternoon and transition times are also perfect to spot them engaged in various activities.
Based on your region and preferred bird activities you would like to observe, your birding experience can differ. So to make you well aware of what species are most active at different day times and what activities you can expect to notice, this article includes some necessary information you need to know.
What Times Of The Day Are Birds Most Active?
The majority of the birds are active at dawn, predusk, and early morning. But it might vary from bird to bird.
To get the most out of your birding experience, you need more than just a set of binoculars and some spare time. You need to be aware of the perfect timings to step out as well. Most birds can be seen during the following hours:
Do not confuse dawn with transition times. Dawn usually starts 72 minutes before sunrise. If you want to hear the sound of the earth awakening, dawn is the best time. Because at this time, most birds sing in chorus.
In North America, the dawn chorus starts when Robin and Lark’s species start singing. And later on, Sparrows and Blackbirds join in. The low or dim light at dawn triggers them to sing harmoniously. Also, at such low lighting, they cannot go out to hunt so they tend to sing.
Spring dawn is the best time to experience the dawn chorus at its best. Because the temperate climate at that season gathers a variety of diurnal species to sing. So it is the best time for you to join their melodious concert free of cost unless you are birding at a bird park.
Predusk is that short moment just before dusk. It is not the darkest phase of twilight. And generally, predusk starts 30 minutes before the sunset. To diurnal birds, this is the best time for murmuration and avian foraging. So at predusk, you can see a flock of birds, especially the long-billed American Woodcock.
If you are lucky enough, you will get to see some nocturnal species flying at predusk. Basically, they are the predators the diurnal species try to be safe from by forming murmuration. It forms when hundreds to thousands of starlings swirl across the sky. You can go near cliffs, woodlands, or reed beds to enjoy an aerial dance in the beautiful shape-shifting clouds.
At predusk, most birds fly around in search of roosting sites where they can nestle together for warmth. Such a flock of birds can attract predators like Falcons. But it is not easy to attack or single out one bird from a whirling group. So during the murmuration, the starlings swoop, twist, and turn to keep the predators from attacking.
The diurnal species tend to spend the maximum hours of the night without eating. Given the fact that they need to devour as much food as possible before returning to their roosting places, they go foraging or in search of food at predusk. Sometimes they forage at this time to store food for the growing hatchlings.
At transition times the day starts changing into the night and the night into the day. Simply put, this is the time during the sunset or sunrise. It lasts for a few minutes. Diurnal birds tend to stay active at this time mostly for singing in chorus and migration.
The singing at sunset or sunrise is subtler compared to the dawn chorus. The House Sparrows, Robin, and Willow Warbler start a subtle chorus. So if you are up for a subtle chorus coupled with Wood Pigeons crooning, birding during this time is a good choice.
Transition times radiate celestial cues that help the migrating birds to establish their migratory direction. Also, the pattern of sunbeams at this hour is a good cue to identify the direction or roosting site.
Throughout the October days, you can notice these active migratory visitors, specifically Warblers or Blackcaps. You can watch them from open ground, cliffs, or rooftops. But if the weather is stormy, they might not stay active or migrate at these times.
A lot of birds seem to have taken the saying “early birds get the worms” too seriously. So they come out of their roosts early in the morning. They tend to forage more at this time compared to the predusk. Because at this hour, the ectotherm bugs are easy to find.
Have a look at your grassy or dessert-like yards. That is where the early birds come mostly to look for food. The more a yard looks like a natural habitat, the more species will be active there. If a yard or garden has a seed tray, it will attract more birds.
The ground-feeding birds like Sparrows or Quail use their feet to scratch seeds or other food from the ground. But the Warblers and Chickadees species fly from branch to branch or leaf to leaf throughout the morning to pick up food.
The time between 2 to 4 is mid-afternoons and most birds like to sunbathe at these hours. Especially the Blue Jays, Doves, and Pigeons. They can sunbathe on the rooftop, ground, or on a tree branch where mid-afternoon sun rays can reach without any obstruction.
At this time, you can notice most birds are engaged in different movements as if a good yoga session is going on. Some of them are facing their backs towards the sun to soak up some warm sunray. Whilst the others spread their tail and stretch wings on the ground.
Birds drink water throughout the day. But during the scorching heat, they are more active near the water sources. If you are in a temperate region, you might observe some Hummingbirds or Sunbirds drinking nectar in the mid-afternoon.
Why Do Birds Stay Active At Specific Daytimes?
It seems that birds do not prefer to be couch potatoes. So they smartly plan and execute different activities at different times of the day.
They maintain specific times because it gives them few advantages. Below are the reasons why birds stay active on specific daytimes.
Courting And Marking Territory
Birds are most active at dawn chorus because it gives them the ideal environment for courting or attracting other potential mates. And it also gives them the advantage to send clear signals to defend their territory.
At dawn, the air currents are less active and the traffic or insect buzzes are less prominent. So this ambient helps their chorus to reach far away. And the chorus attracts other mates or advertises their strong presence in that territory.
Predators Are Away
During the early morning, predusk, and transition times the raptors or predators do not stay active. It gives most diurnal species the advantage to go foraging without any potential threat.
Even domestic or wild cats, snakes, or animals try to attack diurnal small birds. So the birds stay active at the specific times mentioned above when the predators are likely to be away.