Animals in fiction tend to be shown being active at the wrong time of day or night. These terms describe when an animal is most active:
- Nocturnal - active primarily at night.
- Diurnal - active primarily during the day.
- Crepuscular - active primarily during both dawn and dusk. Many animals that are casually referred to as nocturnal are actually crepuscular. Though not generally active in the middle of the night, they are similarly absent in broad daylight.
- Matutinal - active primarily during the dawn and/or early morning. The variant term, matinal is used only in entomology, often in literature about natural history and ecology of bees.
- Vespertine - active primarily during the dusk and/or evening. Vespertine animals are usually referred to as nocturnal.
- Metaturnal - active part of the day and part of the night.
- Cathemeral - can be active at any time of the day or night; basically diurnal, nocturnal, and crepuscular combined.
Authors tend to ignore these restrictions. Happens particularly often to owls. It's worth noting that not all bats nor all owls are nocturnal.
Compare Misplaced Wildlife
- Messenger owls in Harry Potter can be sent at any time, day or night, no matter the species. Considering the setting and the distances they seem to cover in a very short time as well as the relative lack of care compared to what they really need, they may well be magic.
- Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling has noted that snowy owls are actually one of the rare diurnal species, a fact she didn't realize when she started writing about how Hedwig would go out flying every night after a long day's rest. She suggests being a magical animal may have something to do with it in-universe, however.
- In the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the Muggle news contains an item about how strange it is that so many owls are being seen in daylight, as a result of the Wizard celebration of Voldemort's first downfall.
- Warrior Cats by Erin Hunter has the cats be active mainly in the daylight Word of God states that it is to prevent most of scenes happening in dark. Real life cats can be active anytime of the day or night and cannot see in complete darkness, needing at least some light in order to see (which is usually provided by the moon).
- Zig-Zagged in Pokémon: while most species can be found in both day and night, there are some found only in the morning or twilight, based on their real-animal counterparts.
- Owl from Winnie the Pooh.
- Disney's Robin Hood has a fox playing Robin Hood and Maid Marian. They stay awake during the day, despite foxes being crepuscular. And on the occasions where they come into human contact, foxes tend to become... nocturnal.
- The Fox and the Hound has the owl mentor of Tod, but her species is dubious and thus her diurnal/crepuscular/cathemeral/nocturnal deal.
- Deconstructed in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, where Herriman insists that even a nocturnal owl friend be up during the day, helping. Frankie protests against this and eventually runs for the administrative position of Foster's, among her campaign promises to adjust sleeping schedules to accomodate nocturnal friends.
- Played with in Birdz: Sleepy Bat is awake during the day, but is constantly falling asleep.
- Originally averted with Owloiscious in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when Twilight appoints Owloiscious to be her second assistant so Spike can get enough sleep at night/early morning. Played straight in "May the Best Pet win" when he's present during the regular pet play date in the middle of the day.
- Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal. So much for the sky always being yellow.
- Wolves are also primarily nocturnal/crepuscular, but Loopy de Loop seems not to have heard.
- Related: Many mammals, such as deer, cats, rabbits, and mice, are either crepuscular, cathemeral, or metaturnal.
- Try to find a cat in fiction that is uncomfortable in daylight (though many cats tend to be comfortable in broad daylight and domestic cats, European wildcats, and cheetahs do just fine in broad daylight.)
- Big cats and other crepuscular mammals to a lesser extent have been noted to increasingly become diurnal in regions where they are no longer hunted (and vice versa), suggesting that the line is murkier than usual.
- Raccoons are nocturnal/crepuscular, but rabid raccoons are diurnal.
- Snowy owls and burrowing owls are diurnal.
- Fossas are cathemeral.
- Mongooses are diurnal.
- Guinea pigs are diurnal.
- Gerbils are diurnal.
- Most members of the squirrel family are diurnal except flying squirrels, which are nocturnal.
- All monkeys are diurnal except douroucoulis (a.k.a. night monkeys or owl monkeys), which are nocturnal.
- Numbats are diurnal, unlike most other marsupials.
- Coyotes are usually crepuscular/nocturnal, but can often be seen during daylight hours. They were once essentially diurnal, but have adapted to more nocturnal behavior with pressure from humans.
- Shrews have such a rapid metabolism that they have to be cathemeral to survive, because they'll starve to death if they sleep for longer than an hour or so at a stretch.