Nocturnal Animals List, Pictures & Interesting Facts

Nocturnal animals list with pictures and interesting facts…


Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal animals are animals that are active at night. They often have special adaptions for nocturnal living, including large eyes for low-light vision, and heightened senses of hearing and smell. Examples of nocturnal animals include aardvarks, bats, moths, owls, raccoons, Tasmanian devils and wolves.

nocturnal animals pictures

Scroll down to see our top 20 list of nocturnal animals…

Diurnal & Crepuscular Animals

The opposite of nocturnal is diurnal. Diurnal animals are animals that are active during the day. Crepuscular animals are active at twilight (i.e. during the dawn and dusk).


Nocturnal Animals List

What’s your favorite nocturnal animal? Are there any you think we should add to this list? Let us know in the comments section; we’d love to hear from you!

Aardvark

aardvark

  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found: Africa

The aardvark is a nocturnal mammal found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa (the area south of the Sahara Desert). It eats ants and termites, which it locates using its sensitive nose and hearing. The aardvark uses its powerful claws to break open insect nests and also to dig the burrows in which it lives.


Aye-Aye

Aye-aye

  • Type of animal: Mammal (Lemur)
  • Where found: Madagascar

The aye-aye is a lemur that lives in the rainforests of Madagascar, a large island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa.

The aye-aye, which reaches a length of around 3 ft. (90 cm), including its long tail, is the world’s largest nocturnal primate.

This night-time forager finds food by tapping on trees; it can tell by the sound if there’s a tasty insect grub hidden beneath the bark.

Some people believe that the aye-aye brings bad luck, and this amazing nocturnal animal has faced persecution due to these beliefs. This, and habitat loss, are among the reasons that the aye-aye is now endangered.


Badgers

American Badger in grassland
American badger
  • Type of animal: Mammal (members of the family Mustelidae)
  • Where found: Europe, North America, Asia, Africa

There are fifteen badger species, all of which belong to the family Mustelidae (the weasel family). Well-known badger species include the American badger, European badger and honey badger (an African species).

Badgers are powerful burrowing animals with short legs and large claws. They spend the day in burrows known as setts and emerge at night to forage and hunt.

You can find out more about badgers on the following pages:


Bats

Lesser Horseshoe Bats
Lesser horseshoe bats
  • Type of animal: Mammals (order Chiroptera)
  • Where found: Every continent except Antarctica

Bats are some of the best-known nocturnal animals. Due to their nocturnal lifestyle, bats are often associated with witchcraft.

Bats are mammals whose wings consist of skin stretched out on elongated fingers. The 1,400 or so living bat species make up the order Chiroptera.

There are two main types of bats: megabats, which are often known as fruit bats, and microbats, which find their prey using echolocation.

You can find out more about bats on the following pages:


Catfish

Catfish

  • Type of animal: Fish (order Siluriformes)
  • Where found: Every continent except Antarctica

Catfish are fish in the order Siluriformes. They are named after the long, cat’s whisker-like barbels present on many (but not all) catfish species. (A barbel is a long, thin, sensory organ located near a fish’s mouth.)

Large catfish, such as the wels catfish, a species found in Europe, can reach lengths of up to 16 ft / (5 m); other species are much smaller.

Many, but not all, catfish are nocturnal and most are found in freshwater habitats. Around half of all catfish species have venomous spines.


Firefly

Common Eastern Firefly
Common Eastern Firefly. Photo: Terry Priest, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr
  • Type of animal: Insect (family Lampyridae)
  • Where found: Temperate & tropical regions worldwide

Fireflies, despite their name, are not flies; they are beetles belonging to the order Coleoptera. Outside of the Americas, fireflies are also known as “glow worms”.

There are around 2,000 species in the firefly family, Lampyridae. Most are nocturnal animals that are able to produce light via chemical reactions that take part in special parts of the body (a process known as bioluminescence).

Fireflies produce light mainly to attract mates, but some species use their light to attract prey.


Flying Squirrels

Southern Flying Squirrel in North Carolina
Southern Flying Squirrel in North Carolina
  • Type of animal: Mammal (family Sciuridae)
  • Where found: Asia, Europe, North America

Flying squirrels are rodents in the squirrel family Sciuridae that are able to glide from tree to tree using a wing-like membrane (known as a patagium) that stretches between their arms and legs.

Most of the world’s flying squirrel species are found in Asia, but some are found in Europe, and three are found in North America.

The North American flying squirrels (southern flying squirrel, northern flying squirrel and Humboldt’s flying squirrel) belong to the genus Glaucomys.

Most flying squirrels are nocturnal animals. Despite their name, they are only able to glide, rather than fly.


Galagoes (Bushbabies)

bushbaby

  • Type of animal: Mammal (Primate, family Galagidae)
  • Where found: Africa

Galagoes are a family of small nocturnal primates found in sub-Saharan Africa. Like many nocturnal animals, galagoes have large eyes for seeing in the dark.

Galagoes feed mainly on insects, which they can hunt by sound using their long ears and acute hearing.

There are around 19 species of galagoes. Each species has its own, distinctive cry. Due to these child-like screams, galagoes are also known as bush babies.


Hedgehogs

Hedgehog

  • Type of animal: Mammal (subfamily Erinaceinae)
  • Where found: Europe, Asia, Africa

Hedgehogs are mammals in the subfamily Erinaceinae. There are around 15 hedgehog species. All have a coat of protective spines, which are stiffened hairs. If threatened, a hedgehog is able to roll into a ball to protect its face and undersides.

Hedgehogs that live in cold regions hibernate during the winter.


Leopard

Leopard

  • Type of animal: Mammal (family Felidae)
  • Where found: Africa, Asia

With its spotted coat, the leopard is one of the most distinctive wild cat species. The leopard’s “spots” are actually rings known as rosettes.

Like many wild cats, the leopard is mainly nocturnal. The eyes of all cats have a lining called a tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back through the retina, thereby improving the animal’s night vision. It is the presence of the tapetum lucidum that make’s a cat’s eyes glow at night.

The leopard is found throughout much of Africa and Asia – an area larger than that inhabited by any other wild cat species. Despite its large range, the leopard is threatened and has the conservation status of “Vulnerable”.


Night Monkeys

Panamanian night monkey
Photo: dsasso, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Type of animal: Mammals (order Primates, genus Aotus)
  • Where found: Central and South America

The eleven species of night monkey are the only truly nocturnal monkeys. Their characteristic large brown eyes provide improved night vision, but are monochromatic (unable to distinguish colors).

The genus name Aotus means “earless”; although night monkeys do have ears, they are largely covered by fur.

Night monkeys have an acute sense of smell, which helps them find food in the darkness.

You can find out more about monkeys on the following pages:


Moths

Moth

  • Type of animal: Insect (order Lepidoptera)
  • Where found: All continents except Antarctica

The insect order Lepidoptera contains the world’s moths and butterflies. With around 160,000 species, there are over eight moth species to every one butterfly species (there are around 18,500 species of butterfly).

Most moths are nocturnal, although there are some diurnal species. Nocturnal moths are often attracted to artificial light. The exact reason for this is unknown, but it is thought that moths may use natural light sources (e.g., the moon) to enable them to fly in a straight line.

You can find out more about moths on the following pages:


Nightjars

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk
  • Type of animal: Bird (family Caprimulgidae)
  • Where found: All continents except Antarctica

Nightjars are a family of mainly nocturnal birds that can be identified by their long wings, well-camouflaged plumage and short beaks. Some North American members of this family are called nighthawks.

Like many nocturnal animals, nightjars are the object of superstitious beliefs. In the past, nightjars were known as “goatsuckers” due to the belief that they fed on the milk of livestock.


Opossum

Virginia opossum

  • Type of animal: Mammal (Marsupial)
  • Where found: North and South America

Opossums are a group of over 100 marsupials that are found in the Americas. One of the best-known species, and the only opossum found in the United States and Canada, is the Virginia opossum.

Like all marsupials, opossums are born very early on in their development. The young, which are known as “joeys”, make their way to a special pouch in the mother’s body. Here they can access their mother’s milk while they continue their development.

Opossums are omnivores that forage at night.


Owls

Spectacled Owl
Photo: TonyCastro, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped / resized by ActiveWild.com)
  • Type of animal: Bird (order Strigiformes)
  • Where found: All continents except Antarctica

Owls are some of the best-known nocturnal animals, although not all of the 240 or so owl species are nocturnal.

Owls have large eyes for improved night vision, as well as an acute sense of hearing for locating prey in low-light conditions.

The ears of owls are positioned asymmetrically on the head – this improves the bird’s ability to tell the direction from which a sound is coming.

The stiff feathers that make an owl’s round “face” also help to direct sound towards the ears.

You can find out more about owls on the following pages:


Raccoon

Raccoon

  • Type of animal: Mammal (family Procyonidae)
  • Where found: North America

With its distinctive black and white face, the raccoon is one of the most recognizable North American mammals. Originally a forest animal, the adaptable raccoon is now home in a variety of habitats, including towns and cities.

The raccoon is an omnivore with a highly varied diet that includes insects, worms, the eggs of both birds and reptiles, fish, and occasionally birds and mammals.


Rats

Brown Rat
Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus)
  • Type of animal: Mammal (rodent of genus Rattus)
  • Where found: All continents except Antarctica

Of the 66 species of genus Rattus, the best known and most widespread are the black rat and the slightly larger brown rat.

Rats are often found in human settlements due to the availability of food and shelter. As man has spread around the world, so rats have followed, often as stowaways. Today, both the brown and the black rat are found in most of the places that humans live.

Sadly, rats are known carriers of disease and can cause great damage to crops and goods. These adaptable rodents are invasive species in many regions, and their introduction can be extremely damaging to native wildlife.

  • You can find out more about rodents on this page: Rodent Facts

Scorpions

Scorpion glowing in ultraviolet light
Scorpion glowing in ultraviolet light
  • Type of animal: Arachnid (order Scorpiones)
  • Where found: All continents except Antarctica

Scorpions are a group of arachnids characterized by large claws and a segmented tail, which ends with a stinger. Scorpions have eight legs (in addition to the pincers, which are actually modified mouthparts).

A scorpion’s stinger injects venom into a victim. It is used both for hunting and as defense against predators.

Most scorpions are nocturnal. At night, scorpions can be located using ultraviolet light, which makes scorpions glow blue-green.


Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

  • Type of animal: Mammal (Marsupial)
  • Where found: Australia

The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial. It belongs to the family Dasyuridae, which is also home to the quolls and other mainly carnivorous / insectivorous marsupials.

Most wild Tasmanian devils are found on the Australian island state of Tasmania, but recently a small number were reintroduced onto the Australian mainland.

The Tasmanian devil is known for its terrifying night-time screeches and aggressive feeding behavior.

Sadly, this iconic Australian animal is currently threatened by a disease and is now endangered.


Wolf

Wolf

  • Type of animal: Mammal (family Canidae)
  • Where found: Throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere

The wolf, or gray wolf to give this iconic animal its full name, is the largest member of the dog family Canidae.

Wolves are found in many different habitats across their range, but are mainly associated with wilderness and forest areas.

Wolves live and hunt in family groups known as packs. Pack hunting gives wolves an advantage over solitary predators, and enables them to overcome prey as large as bison and moose.

Due to its nocturnal behavior and characteristic howling, the wolf features in the myths and legends in many different cultures. It is one of the world’s best-known nocturnal animals.


Nocturnal Animals List: Conclusion & Further Reading

We hope that you have enjoyed reading about the many different types of nocturnal animals and their adaptions for living at night.

You can find out more about animals and the animal kingdom on the following pages:

Leave a Comment