Why Are Animals Nocturnal? 15 Amazing Facts (+ Their Secrets)

Some animals prefer to be awake during the night. We call them nocturnal animals. There can be several reasons why they will sleep or rest during the day and stay awake during the night.

Why are animals nocturnal?

The main four reasons are:

  1. It’s often easier to hunt food at night
  2. In order to survive
  3. To avoid the heat of the day
  4. To breed in peace 

Let’s take a closer look at what is going on with our night friends during the night.

There are a ton of interesting and fascinating facts. Some of the cutest animals are night creatures that will primarily be active during the night.

Let’s take a closer look at some information about nocturnal animals. We will look at specific pets and wild animals and see why and how they manage to be active at night.

The Main Reasons Animals Are Nocturnal

Cute animal being nocturnal and sleeping all day

There are several reasons why some animals prefer to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. Being nocturnal is not only about hunting food and having night vision.

Here are the main reasons why animals are nocturnal

1) It’s often easier to hunt food at night

If you want to sneak up on someone it’s much easier done in dimmed light.

So in order to have an advantage over the prey, many animals stay awake at night to hunt food.

This is the main reason Lions hunt at night. They prefer to hunt Zebras and Antelopes and they have bad night vision. So they won’t see the big cat sneaking upon them.

2) In order to survive

Just like it’s easier to hunt at night, it’s also easier to stay alive during the night for some animals.

It can be hard to hide in plain daylight so by staying active at night some animals have an advantage over the predators.

A good example here is the Moths. They are small animals and they are not super fast and they can be a little clumsy when they fly. So they need darkness in order to stay alive.

Sea Turtles and some birds show this behavior. They are too vulnerable to predators in the sunshine so they will gather to eat at night.

3) To avoid the heat of the day

In many exotic areas, the daytime is extremely hot. That’s why some animals prefer to stay awake during the night.

It’s easier to keep the body temperature right when the hot sun around the Equator is going down. So many animals of the savannah will come out during the night in order to eat.

It is also believed that Lions hunt at night in order to preserve water in their bodies.

The water quickly evaporates in the heat of the savannah. But not during the night when it’s colder.

The rising temperatures across the globe push more and more animals to stay awake later in the day and turn towards more nocturnal behavior. This is a problem for many animals because daylight is needed but the sun gets too warm for them to stay out.

Change in climate and seasons also cause animals to migrate.

4) To breed in peace

Sea Turtles will breed in the dark in order to avoid predators.

They reproduce during the warmest months of the year and there they enter the shore at night. The female will crawl up on the shore and find a good spot to lay her eggs. They are not good at moving on land as they are aquatic animals.

So, they need the peace and quiet of the night in order to move up on the beach and find a good spot to breed.

The little eggs will also hatch at night time or during a rainstorm when the temperatures drop. So there’s also an aspect of temperature in play here.

What Do Nocturnal Animals Eat?

Most nocturnal animals will eat other animals. They use the advantage of the dark to sneak up upon their prey as we looked at above.

But not all night creatures are predators.

Take the hedgehogs for example. They prefer to eat vegetables and fruits and they will also drink a cup of milk if you are so kind as to put it outside for it.

So as you can see we can’t really categorize the eating habits of animals according to them being nocturnal.

Other animals such as frogs and toads will eat small insects like flies, mosquitoes, moths, and even dragonflies. So they will eat both during the day and night. But at night they often have an advantage because the insects are more passive.

How Do Animals See At Night?

Nocturnal animals have the ability to see very well in low light. We all need light in order to see but nocturnal animals can see in very dimmed light.

Owls, for example, and other animals have really big eyes and this enables them to let more light in and create an image from very little light.

The “cornea” is the front part of the eyes that covers the lens and the iris. It is much bigger on many nocturnal animals and that helps them see in the dark.

Cornea of nocturnal animals

This is an image showing where the Cornea is placed on the human eye.

The larger cornea, lenses, and pupil lets in more light and that’s the primary reason nocturnal animals can see well at night.

Other animals don’t even need to see at night. A good example here is bats. They rely entirely on echolocating. They send out high-pitched sounds and will analyze the echo delay in order to calculate distances. That will let them navigate and hunt.

Which Animals Are Nocturnal? (10 examples)

We have a lot of animals that are nocturnal. Let’s list some of the famous ones.

  1. Owls
  2. Foxes
  3. Bats
  4. Skunks
  5. Geckos
  6. Frogs
  7. Kinkajous
  8. Deers
  9. Badgers
  10. Raccoons

You will probably be surprised to find out just how many animals are actually nocturnal.

But it seems that there are a lot of advantages for animals to stay awake at night. This also means that they have improved eyesight, better hearing, and often better noses in order to navigate and find food.

Nocturnal fish and sea creatures

We also find a lot of fish and sea creatures who are awake at night in order to eat.

They will typically eat zooplankton because it’s much easier to see it at night. Others will hunt fish.

While some fish are nocturnal in order to hunt others use the advantage of the dark to avoid getting eaten! If you are a slow fish you might prefer to swim at night because there are fewer dangers lurking around the corners.

The nocturnal fish have bigger eyes and are often very shy and hard to catch on camera.

Oxolotl fish salamander

Some nocturnal fish and sea creatures are:

  1. Polyps (living on corals)
  2. Eels
  3. Cardinalfish
  4. Snappers
  5. Mollusks
  6. Soldierfish
  7. Lobsters
  8. Shrimps
  9. Crabs
  10. Worms
  11. Starfish

Fox sleeping at day (nocturnal)

Nocturnal Pets You Can Keep At Home

As nocturnal animals are awake during the night they are not the ideal pet in many cases.

Unless you have the same tendency to sleep during the day and be awake at night. So for teenagers, they can be the perfect pet as they will keep you company while you do whatever you do during the night.

But keep in mind that they will not sleep at night and they might be pretty active.

So sitting in a cage from early evening till dawn is not ideal.

So if you like to go to bed early you should go for a diurnal pet. That means to be awake during the day and asleep at night. 

Hedgehogs are the cutest things!

Hedgehogs are one of the cutest animals alive. Wouldn’t you agree?

Baby hedgehog. Young and cute with big eyes

Check out those cute black eyes they are just super cute. This is a baby hedgehog in the hand of its owner. Check out this article if you want to see more cute pets with huge eyes.

Hedgehogs are found in nature in most parts of the world except for many places in North America, for instance. I live in Denmark and we have a lot of hedgehogs and they come out in the evening as they are nocturnal. They will stay up all night and wander around in order to find food.

We often place a plate with a bit of milk on it outside. That always attracts the little creatures during the night.

But remember that a wild hedgehog is not meant to be taken indoors.

And there are several reasons for that. The first reason is that the animal is used to being in nature and will be afraid of being too close to humans. The next reason that you probably don’t want to bring your garden hedgehog indoors is that it can have infections. And it probably will be.

The hedgehog you find and people’s homes as pets have gone through careful selective breeding.

Cute hedgehog in wild nature. Spiky and cute

Hedgehogs make the cutest snorting sound like a little pig.

They are a great option for an indoor pet but you should take it out in the garden once in a while to show it “the world” outside. It will love to dig around and explore your garden.

Check out this super-cute albino hedgehog. It has completely red eyes (like most albinos) and the spikes are all bright and beautiful. They are pretty rare though!

Albino hedgehog with white skin and white eyes

Because Hedgehogs are nocturnal you should try to let them rest during the day. And don’t be surprised if they make a little noise or start snorting around during the night.

You can read more here about how to keep a hedgehog as a pet.

Chinchillas are great pets too

Chinchillas are super-cute little pets.

They live in South America and they can live up to 10 years in captivity. Check out those cute big ears. They will grow a lot bigger as the baby gets older.

baby chinchilla eating. Super cute with adorable eyes

Here’s a picture of a full-grown chinchilla.

The firm has become a little darker and ears have grown a lot. It has the cutest little eyes staring up at you when it standing on its back feet.

It’s not very fond of cuddling but it is very friendly and it will never attack or bite you if you treat it well. It’s a little bigger than a hamster and it has a pretty long tail which you can’t see on the image below.

Full grown chinchilla with big ears and darker fur

Chinchillas are also great pets that you can keep in your home. They probably don’t look like night creatures but they are nocturnal and you need to let them rest during the day.

So if you are a night creature yourself the Chinchilla can be a great companion!

They are probably the cutest animal among all of the exotic pet she can keep.

We have a separate article about exotic animals with info about Chinchillas as pets.

Hamsters can be your best friend

Hamsters are also nocturnal pets.

I had a hamster for several years when I was a small kid. It would always start biting the wires in its cage during the night so I had to place it in another room sometimes.

Thinking back at that time I think I should have had a bigger cage for it. It was probably pretty bored since it started biting the cage.

Poor thing.

yellow pet hamster in hand nocturnal

This is also one of the main reasons people advise families to wait until the kids are around 6 years old before they get a hamster. Kids need to be able to play with it in the evening and they need to take good care of it.

One of the funniest things with hamsters are their ability to stock food in their mouth.

A hamster can totally stuff its face with snacks and carry them around in the mouth. It will eventually put them in a safe space where it can return once in a while whenever it wants another snack. SO CUTE!!

Here’s another gorgeous picture of a baby hamster. It’s sitting in the palm of its owner and it looks like it’s sleeping. Remember they are mostly awake during the night (nocturnal) so they will often sleep during the day.

And they should get the rest they need in order to rest before they get up during the night.

Tiny baby pet hamster in owners hand

Hamsters are easy to keep and easy to feed.

But the main downside is that they will often only live for a couple of years (2-3).

They like many things like carrots, fruits, Apples, and most other veggies. But don’t offer it chocolate or uncooked beans. They can not digest them and they can be dangerous for the little guy.

Funny hamster eating snacks. Meme joke

Let’s look at another REALLY cute nocturnal pet.

Here’s a picture of a brand new Hamster.

Meet the newborn baby Hamster!

Newborn baby hamster is so tiny and cute!

Sugar Gliders are fun but not always the ideal pet!

Sugar Gliders will live much longer than Hamsters. They can live around 10 years as a pet and they will bring you a lot of fun.

You can play all sorts of things with it and it will also like to cuddle.

But be aware that they can be quite smelly and they also take a lot of work. They are exotic animals and they tend to prefer lots of space. You will need a cage with lots of vertical space. Much like your pet rats. They prefer to climb around and have plenty of space.

Sugar Glider pet sitting looking cute and ready to fly

As the name indicated, they can glide through the air. So you need to take them out of the cage often.

This is where it gets really fun. If you have space and time to play with it!

If you haven’t got time to play with your Sugar Glider and to let it out of the cage it’s not a pet for you. Put on top of this that it’s also a nocturnal pet you REALLY need to think twice before you acquire one.

For the same reason, they are actually illegal in Alaska, California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

Sugar Glider hanging and spreading it's wings

The Sugar Gliders have excellent hearing and can rotate their ears independently. They can even point them forward in order to pick up the sounds you make.

Here’s more info about how to keep a Sugar Glider as a pet.

Fennec Foxes

Fennec Foxes is another exotic pet that is nocturnal. But that’s only one of the reasons why you need to think twice before you decide to get a Fennec Fox pet.

Fennec Fox sleeping during the day and being nocturnal

Fennec foxes need special attention and are not the easiest animal to keep as a pet. They are quite costly and they will not cuddle with you.

They are wild creatures and need lots of space and access to outdoor activities.

That being said, they can be trained to walk in leach and they are pretty harmless.

Here’s more info about Fennec Foxes as pets.

Nocturnal animals that sleep during the day and stay awake during the day

Can Humans Be Nocturnal?

Humans are by nature diurnal (day creatures). But some people form a habit of being awake during the night.

This can happen when you are working at night. Many professions require you to work at night so after many years the body often adapts to this and you will have trouble falling asleep during the night.

We call these people A-people and B-people.

  • A-people are early birds. They are people who sleep at night
  • B-people are night owls, who prefer to stay up very late and sleep during the day.

We also call the phenomenon “eveningness” and “morningness”. This refers to when you prefer to be awake.

But fear not if you are a night owl! Studies have shown that people who prefer to stay up during the night are often more creative and intelligent.

But it can be unhealthy.

Humans need sunshine and vitamin D from the sunlight. We also need to socialize. So go all out and skip sleeping during the day in order to get more creative. It’s working that way around 😉

Sources: aspca.org, mass.gov

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