You can often hear American Robins singing at night in urban areas, even though these birds are awake throughout the day. This is due to the effects of urbanization.
But is that the only reason that American Robins sing at night?
American Robins sing at night because they’ve adapted to sing when there’s less city noise. During the day, their calls would be drowned out by the sounds of cars, heavy machinery, and other urban features. So instead, the robins have started singing late at night and early in the morning.
Why Do Robins Sing at Night?
Robin sings at night because the noise during the day keeps them from being heard.
Research shows that American Robins who live in urban areas often have abnormal sleeping patterns and singing habits due to urban development, so it turns to nighttime songs instead.
Additionally, the light from the street lamps keeps the robin from recognizing that the day has ended.
Together, noise and light trick the internal clock of the robin, inspiring late-night singing and robbing the bird of regular sleep.
Effects of Urban Noise on Birds
Cities come with significant noise pollution, whether from car traffic, construction sites, or other sources.
For birds, this means that their various calls and songs often cannot be heard during the daytime.
Birds rely on sound to establish territory, find mates, and send warnings to each other, so living without the ability to communicate through sound is quite a challenge.
For this reason, some birds have adapted to stay awake later and sing during the night, waiting until the city noise has gone away to send signals to each other.
Also, city birds tend to wake up especially early to beat the noise.
Effects of Artificial Lighting on Birds
Some birds, including the American Robin, are also influenced by the effects of artificial light.
City lights trick the birds into thinking the days are longer, which reduces the amount of time that birds spend sleeping.
City noise tends to be a bigger contributing factor to altered sleep schedules of robins and other birds, but city lights are also significant.
Reducing the Negative Impacts of Urbanization
Urbanization has brought many changes to how robins live, from pushing their sleep schedules to reducing nesting habitat space.
Unfortunately, many of these changes have made life harder for the American Robin, but there are things you can do to help them adapt.
Impacts of Urban Development on Birds
The combined impacts of city lights and noise pollution have made robins sleep later at night for fewer hours, depleting their energy stores.
As a result, urban robins get much less rest than their rural relatives, leading to various health problems.
Beyond the nocturnal habits inspired by city noises and artificial lights, there are many areas where urban development greatly influences native bird species like the American Robin.
One part of urban development that hugely impacts birds is the transformation of green spaces into concrete surfaces and structures.
Any green spaces that are left are often fragmented by roads and other barriers, making it difficult for birds to thrive.
Without the nesting habitat and refuge from predators allowed by large green spaces, many bird species vanish from an area once it becomes urbanized. However, others adapt.
Scientists have witnessed the development of urban animals who are well-adapted to life in the city, like the American Robin.
How To Support Native Birds in Your City
Keeping green space in the city is a great way to support urban birds.
Growing grass gives birds material for their nests, and keeping trees and shrubs gives them shelter from predators.
Fruiting plants and flowers can also provide food sources, which are hard to come by in the city.
Water sources are also hard for city birds to find, so leaving a birdbath out for them to bathe in and drink from is very helpful.
Nesting boxes are also helpful, as cavity-nesting birds have difficulty finding a place to lay their eggs and raise their young without trees nearby.
You can either build a nesting box or purchase one like the Emerging Green Wooden Bird House from Amazon.com.
Other Birds That Sing at Night
When listening for bird sounds at night, take note of these other birds which you’ll hear. These birds are naturally partly nocturnal, unlike the robin.
One common bird you’ll hear at night is the Eastern Whip-poor-will, named after the sound that it makes.
These birds can be heard in the springtime and early summer, often at night, calling for mates.
Whip-poor-wills are difficult to spot, but their calls are distinctive; they sound just like “whip-poor-will.”
The Northern Mockingbird can be difficult to identify because it mimics the sounds of other birds.
In fact, the mockingbird can learn to sing over 200 different songs, both songs of their own and songs borrowed from other birds.
You can recognize a mockingbird by its dark black and grey wing feathers and its pale white chest.
The Yellow-breasted Chat makes many different kinds of noises, from a cackle to a whistle to a hoot.
They chatter at night, especially during the breeding season, although they are not nocturnal. They are recognizable by their distinctive yellow coloration.
How To Recognize a Robin’s Song
If you’re out at night and hear a bird, you might wonder whether it’s the American Robin or a naturally nocturnal bird.
You can recognize a robin’s song by its clear, rhythmic sound, repeatedly echoing the sound “cheer up,” also described as a whistle.
You’ll notice that this song is slower during the day and night, but it speeds up during the early morning.
For audio clips of the different calls a robin makes, see The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds in the Sources section. See also the following video: