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.
- Disney's Robin Hood has Robin Hood and Maid Marian as foxes. 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.
- Zootopia's main characters Judy (a rabbit) and Nick (a fox) both stay awake during the day. In real life, both species are crepuscular. Justified in that the mammals in the film have evolved and are fully anthropomorphic and sapient and therefore would be able to overcome biological imperatives regarding daylight hours.
- 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.
- Bagheera is seen sleeping at night in The Jungle Book (2016), when leopards, both spotted and black, are usually more nocturnal.
- 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).
- Sleepy Bird, a picture book by Jeremy Tankard about a bird who doesn't want to go to bed, has this Played for Laughs. Bird travels around the forest trying to get various animals to play with him, but all of them tell him it's time for bed. At one point during this sequence, he encounters Raccoon, asks him to play, and is told "It's bedtime. I'm going to sing a soft lullaby and drift off to sleep."
Bird: But you're NOCTURNAL! Why won't anyone play?
- Rouge from Sonic the Hedgehog.
- The Yagyu from the Archie comic.
- 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.
- Hoothoot and Noctowl can be sent out at any time, though they can only be caught at night.
- Which is strange the other way, as Hoothoot is based on the diurnal Burrowing Owl.
- Hoothoot and Noctowl can be sent out at any time, though they can only be caught at night.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- That blabbering owl, Kaepora Gaebora from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is cathemeral, always ready to give you pages and pages of trivial, useless information, no matter what time it is. "Hoo hoo hoot! Do you want me to repeat?"
- Owl from Winnie-the-Pooh. Though at least one of the Disney book releases, What Good Are Bugs?, makes a reference to a character being unable to wake him up during the day. Double Subverted when it turns out this is only because the noise of the bugs has been keeping him from sleeping at night.
- 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 Sleepy Bat who is awake during the day, but is constantly falling asleep.
- Played straight with Olivia Owl.
- 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.
- In Archer, whenever Cheryl's pet ocelot, Babou, is mentioned, someone will usually mention that he's crepuscular. Even though ocelots really are crepuscular, in the show the mention is usually in a context that makes little to no sense.
Mounties: (while getting attacked by Babou) He's crepuscular! Get him boys!
- On Wild Animal Baby Explorers, Izzy the owl goes out exploring during the day with the other characters.
- On PB&J Otter, the Raccoon family is a straight example with the exception of the father, Mr. Raccoon, who has a nighttime job and sleeps during the day.
- Owl from The Animals of Farthing Wood.
- On Franklin, well... everyone that shouldn't normally be up during the day with the other characters, with the sole exception of Bat. This includes Rabbit, Fox, Raccoon and Mr. Owl. As an added bonus, there's also Bear and his family who are bears, but don't hibernate.
- 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.
- Raccoons in Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., Canada can be seen during the day.
- This can be common in areas where Raccoons have adapted to being fed by humans. Point Defiance Park in Washington State has raccoons that spend the day begging for food from park visitors during the daytime hours (despite signage asking people to not feed the raccoons).
- Snowy owls and burrowing owls are diurnal.
- Fossas are cathemeral.
- Mongooses are diurnal.
- Mongooses were brought to Hawaii to catch rats, but rats are nocturnal or crepuscular, so mongooses, being as diurnal as the humans who brought them there, didn’t see the rats that much. The mongooses brought to Jamaica were brought there to hunt snakes, which are usually diurnal like mongooses.
- 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. (This is pure prey behavior, a guinea pig sleeping with its eyes closed is a very relaxed guinea pig that generally trusts its owner(s).) 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.
- Studies on fossils suggest that many small predatory dinosaurs, such as Velociraptor and Coelophysis, were likely nocturnal.
- Certain animals that are normally nocturnal will sometimes end up displaying diurnal behavior if kept in captivity, such as at a zoo or something, and are fed during the daytime, no longer having to hunt at night. For animals that won't or shouldn't adapt this way, and that can be kept indoors, zoos may house them in a dedicated building where the daylight hours are artificially reversed so that daytime visitors can watch their activity and bump into each other. The Bronx Zoo, for example, had a "World of Darkness" exhibit until 2009.
- Giraffes get as little as thirty minutes of sleep during the nighttime hours, take many short naps of about five minutes, and often sleep standing up with one eye open because of wariness of predators.