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Do Seagulls Fly at Night? (Are They Nocturnal?)

do seagulls fly at night

Do Seagulls Fly at Night? (Are They Nocturnal?)

There are 18,000 bird species around the world, and the vast majority of all species are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

But what about seagulls? Do seagulls fly at night?

While most seagulls are diurnal and active during the day and rest at night, some species are indeed known to fly at night, particularly if city lights are nearby. Although they don’t fly as much at night as during the day, some gulls can be very active during nighttime.

This article will discuss the night behavior of seagulls and explore the reasons behind their nocturnal activity.

Let’s dive right in!


Why Do Seagulls Fly at Night?

The primary driver of seagull night flights is the awareness that food sources may be present. Seagulls have been observed flying more frequently during the night in areas where human populations are more concentrated.

As scavenger birds, gulls will consume virtually anything that crosses their path. Their regular food intake includes fish, insects, earthworms, and eggs, and at times, they have even been known to prey on other birds.

With an opportunistic approach to their diet, they would also scavenge human leftovers, garbage, and other trash materials, even if that requires a night shift.

So, more often than not, seagulls would take advantage of bright city lights to find some additional food sources.

Apart from feeding purposes, seagulls sometimes take a flight to sea at night to safeguard themselves against predators. They have been observed roosting on the ocean, distant from potential intruders.

Are Seagulls Noctornual?

Seagulls did not naturally evolve to fly around at night. The majority of gull species are diurnal, meaning that they are active during the day since they lack adequate night vision due to the size of their eye pupils. Moreover, they lack the necessary eye muscle strength to effectively adapt to night conditions.

Yet, there is one nocturnal gull species, also known as the swallow-tailed gull. Swallow-tailed gulls are the only species that have a tapetum lucidum (a biologic reflector system) – which gives them night vision power.

They live in the Galapagos Islands, inhabit warmer waters, and feed on small fish the night that come to the surface to catch plankton.

Apart from swallow-tailed species, most seagulls are unable to function in complete darkness. They do, however, can fly at night if there are nearby lights.

Where Do Seagulls Go at Night?

Like most diurnal birds, seagulls usually sleep at night, and they are much less active when the sun goes down.

Seagulls sleep in a lot of different places. But, they are mostly found sleeping in the water or in nests if they are protecting a chick. Yet, they also sleep on beaches or sand bars, parks, and rooftops of large buildings.

In the end, their choice of roosting location may depend on various factors, including the availability of food, the presence of predators, and the surrounding environmental conditions.

Other Birds That Fly at Night

  • Nightjars – are easily identified by long thin bodies, short legs, and big wings. These nocturnal birds are most active during twilight time. Nightjars are present in every place in the world, apart from New Zealand.
  • Owls – there are 250 different owl kinds, and most of them are more active at night. Besides night vision, these birds of prey have much better binocular vision compared to other birds, which makes owls terrific night hunters.
  • American Woodcock – these birds are almost never seen, as their plumages provide great camouflage. Most of the time, they would spend on the land in brushy habitats feeding on earthworms.
  • Ducks – are semi-nocturnal birds. They have three times better vision than us, and they also have very good night vision. Additionally, ducks have the ability to see the ultraviolet color spectrum, among very few other birds.
  • Geese – can also function very well in the dark. Compared to humans, geese have ten times better night vision. They are most often seen at night during the migration season.
  • Nighthawks – mainly feed on insects, and these crepuscular birds are only seen in the late evening or early morning. Known for their acrobatic flight style, the nighthawks have the nickname “bullbat.”


Various species of birds have distinct motivations for flying at night. Seagulls, in particular, may engage in nocturnal flight within illuminated zones surrounding coastal regions. The purpose of this behavior can vary, including avoiding potential predators or obtaining food that is typically inaccessible during daylight hours.

Related Article: Do seagulls have ears?

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