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).
- 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, but have unusual sleeping habits. They take many short naps and many, though not all, even keep their eyes open during sleep. They are also known to be at least somewhat responsive to the sleep/wake habits of their owners.
- 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.