Can Birds See In The Dark?

The eyesight of birds is an amazing phenomenon. So, you wonder, “can birds fly at night?” This is a critical question for aviaries and bird lovers. The eyes are a vital organ for birds. It ensures that they fly safely and reach their destination. Without their eyesight, survival would be near impossible for these avians.

Eagles, for instance, have eyesight that helps them to see long distances. They can change their focus easily, thus enabling them to see their prey. There are over ten thousand species of birds. Thus these birds have diverse characteristics spread amongst them. The strength of their eyesight also differs. The eyesight and vision of birds are superior to that of we humans, particularly birds of prey. The eye of a bird can take in and analyze a large number of things while flying.

can birds see in the dark

Birds can detect objects that move very slowly, which may not even be visible to human eyes. For instance, the human eye can’t see the sun’s movement, whereas birds can see this. Compared to other animals, birds have the biggest. This contributes to their incredible eyesight. However, they can’t move their eyes steadily because of the bony eye socket.

Because of the diversity of birds, their eyesight also differs slightly from each other. Most birds see excellently well during the day while others at night. And some can see fairly well during the day and at night. In this post, you’ll find out if birds can see in the dark.

Birds That Can See In The Dark Vs Birds That Can’t See In The Dark

While some birds cannot see in the dark because their vision is very poor at night; there are birds with eyesight better suited to the dark. Some birds are diurnal. In other words, they are active during the day. Other birds are nocturnal. This means that they are active at night.

The majority of birds are active during the day, so they are diurnal. However, this does not mean they cannot see during the night, but rather, their vision is very poor at night. These birds know their strengths and weaknesses. They know their eyesight is better suited for daylight. Thus they carry out their activities during the day and sleep at night.

On the other hand, nocturnal birds such as owls, nighthawks, and night-herons fly at night. They are the opposite of diurnal birds. Their eyesight is better suited to the dark. Rods and cones are the two light receptors in a bird’s eyes. Rods enable them to see effectively at night because it is sensitive to the dark and low lighting conditions.

can birds see in the dark

Cones, on the other hand, help birds to differentiate between colors and it only works in bright conditions. Birds have an extraordinary ability to see a whole array of colors which is not visible to humans. Nocturnal birds such as owl’s, nighthawks, and their ilks have a large number of rods, which enable them to see very well at night while diurnal birds possess more cones.

The lack of abundant rods in diurnal birds doesn’t mean they can’t see at night. Their vision is just impoverished at night. The same applies to nocturnal birds; their vision is not as great during the night as it is during the day.


The loss or decline of eyesight is a terrible thing for any living thing as the eyes are among the body’s most essential organs. To survive, all animals need their sight.

For a bird, the eyes are crucial for flying, locating food sources, and finding their pre, among other necessities. We cannot overemphasize the importance of eyesight to birds. To lose this would be detrimental to the survival of such birds.  However, birds’ vision may decline as they grow older or when they have suffered an injury to the eyes. Although declining eyesight is terrible for survival, such birds can live a good and normal life with the right care. 

In caring for your visually impaired birds, their feeding trays and perches should be in dazzling and brilliant colors, which are easily attracted to the eyes. It would help if you also increased the lighting conditions in its aviary. Also, you shouldn’t change the arrangement of the aviary so that it will remember the setup as it was and would still be able to recognize where it’s feeding trays are placed.

Just like human beings, some birds are scared of the dark, particularly the diurnal birds. Their strengths are better suited to daylight. Thus their vision is very poor at dark.  Their predators may also be nocturnal, which puts them at a vast disadvantage. They have to be wary during the dark.

Yes, good vision helps the birds in the dark. And birds are naturally gifted with extraordinary vision. Their eyesight gives them a binocular vision of their surroundings. Especially the nocturnal birds, it is their weapon for hunting in the dark. 

An owl possesses huge eyes. It can capture as much light as possible with its large eyes, thus enabling it to see very well in the dark.  However, diurnal birds won’t be able to see well at night because of their abundance of cones. Cones only work well under bright conditions.


Birds are colorful and fascinating creatures. Although diverse in species, they prove to be an exciting indulgence. Their eyesight is one of their most peculiar features. Their vision is different and better than that of humans. They see things in a different light and color from human beings. They have the incredible capacity to see a spectrum of colors hidden to human eyes.

Even in dark and extremely poor lighting conditions, some species of birds have the innate ability to see perfectly. Some birds also can see deeper into water; this helps them find food and their prey.

Author Profile

Gabriel Tackett
Double major in Engineering and Geology at the University of Minnesota. Experienced shooter & hunter for over 15 years. Certified NRA officer for over 10 years working as a writer at .

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