The different times of day and night offer different advantages (and disadvantages) to different animals. Since people are most active during the day, we tend to think that daytime is the best of all times. But this is not really true. Some animals would not survive very long in the bright light of day. Predators might more easily catch them. Or their bodies might get too hot and dry up. Or they might not be able to compete with other animals for food. If they could talk, many animals would probably tell you that being crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) and nocturnal (active at night) is every bit as good as being diurnal (active during the day).


Hunters and their prey carry on a never-ending battle at night. Sometimes the hunter wins, but most often the prey gets away. At night, the hunters must have special methods for hunting. They need extra-sharp senses to find their prey in the dark. And they must be very quiet, for the animals they hunt also have sharp senses, and special ways of escaping at night. Special eyes, big ears, sensitive whiskers, and keen noses are just some of the adaptations night animals use to both chase and escape.


Smaller animals are especially vulnerable to being eaten at night, particularly insects and mice. But the diets of nocturnal animals vary as much as the animals themselves. Some eat plants and fruits, and some prefer rabbits or larger prey animals.


The variety of ways nocturnal animals birth and rear their offspring is just as wide as for animals that are active during the day. Bat mothers leave their young hanging in cave “nurseries” while they fly off to hunt at night. Kiwi birds incubate a single egg that equals 20% of their body weight. Raccoons can hide their broods under residential decking or in dry storm drains.


A safe place to hide is what most nocturnal animals look for in the daytime. Many find shelter in trees and rocks. Others dig or build their own shelters. And some nocturnal animals get added protection from camouflage. In other words, their colors blend with their surroundings. Although they try to stay hidden, it is sometimes possible to see night animals in the daytime. When disturbed by predators, they must be ready to run or defend themselves. And if they are hungry enough, many of them will even look for food.

Survival Status

Green Light. Nocturnal animals will be with us forever. Some species may be in trouble due to habitat destruction, but the many survivors will adapt and thrive. Skunks, possums, and raccoons are some excellent examples of this. They have learned to live among people and make use of our structures, parks, and even our garbage.