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Midwest Region
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Out after dark, midwest animals enjoy the night life

By Melissa Clark
Regional Office - External Affairs

These warm summer nights may have you up later than usual, but for nocturnal animals these long summer days are an excuse to sleep in. When the sun sets, these nighttime critters are just waking up to enjoy the night life. What’s your favorite nocturnal animal? The typical answer may be bats or owls, but consider these other midwest natives that prefer to spend their waking hours in the dark.



One reason it’s rare to spot an American badger is their preference to be active at night. These omnivores are known for eating ground squirrels, but have a wide ranging diet that includes plants, fungi and even rattlesnakes! They make their burrows in prairies or along forest edges.

Black-crowned night heron

By feeding at night, black-crowned night herons can avoid competing with other heron species in the same habitat. During the day you’ll see groups of these social birds roosting near water. They may hunt during the day if extra food is needed during breeding season.

Eastern whip-poor-will

Eastern whip-poor-wills will hunt for insects, like mosquitoes, as long as there is enough light from the moon or electric lights. They even lay their eggs 10 days before the full moon, ensuring the eggs will hatch on a night the parents can hunt all night long.


With more than 200 firefly species in North American, it should come as no surprise that different species can produce yellow, green or orange light. Fireflies aren’t flies at all! Fireflies are beetles, so perhaps the name “lightning bug” is more accurate.

Flying squirrel

If your bird feeder is being raided at night, the culprit might be a flying squirrel. Flying squirrels don’t actually fly, but they sure can glide! When starting from a height of 60 ft, they can glide more than half a football field.

Luna moth

The luna moth’s impressive beauty is a treat for anyone who finds one near porch lights. Adult moths have an average wingspan of 4 inches and their long tail directs predators away from their body. Luna moths are one of the largest moths in North America.

Virginia Opossum

Virginia opossum. Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS.

Virginia opossum. Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS.

A selection of nocturnal animals wouldn’t be complete without the Virginia opossum. These underappreciated animals are nature’s trash collectors and play an important role in the ecosystem. These omnivores eat almost anything and make a meal of ticks, slugs and snakes. Amazingly, opossums are resistant to snake venom and the rabies virus.

Last updated: September 9, 2019