There’s nothing stranger than walking outside at night and hearing the eerie creaks and groans of nearby trees. At some point in your life, you’ve probably ran into a tree making some weird and wacky sounds. Well, there’s a few different reasons trees make noises especially during the night.
Trees make different noises at night which is generally a result of wind. These noises include creaking, groaning, squeaking, scratching, and cracking. Trees make more noise at night because everything else around them is still, so we’re able to identify their sounds better.
Below, we’ll go over all the different noises that trees make at night and what causes the noise. We’ll also provide some ways to remedy those noises if they’re coming from your landscape trees outside your home!
Trees Make A Creaking Noise At Night
One of the noises that trees make at night is creaking. Trees can creak during the day, too, but it sounds a heck of a lot more ominous at night.
Healthy trees will make a few creaks here and there, especially in areas prone to windy conditions. However, when trees make excessive creaking noises, they may be calling for help.
Creaking is caused by branches moving in the wind. There could be an old wound in the branch or a hole dug by a pest that is rubbing together, creating the creaking noise. Creaking can also be a sign of a dead branch.
When a dead branch starts creaking, it could mean it’s getting ready to drop. It’s best to trim these types of branches before they fall unexpectedly to the ground.
Creaking is most prevalent on windy nights which are most frequent in spring. Be on the lookout for branches that aren’t flowering in the spring, as these are probably your source of creaking at night.
Trees Groan At Night
Trees can do a lot of talking at night and combined with the dark, it can make them seem alive! Well, the truth is, trees are alive and they have ways of complaining just like we do.
Groaning is a noise made by a tree’s trunk when it has an old wound that is being moved by the wind. Tree wounds could be from a pest, affliction, lightning, or anything that damages the trunk without actually severely limiting the tree.
When the trunk of the tree sways, the layers of bark that have grown around the wound will move, stretch, and shrink, which causes the groaning noise.
If your landscape trees are groaning, it’s usually not a cause for concern. It just means your tree is trying to recover after its trunk has been damaged.
However, if you’re worried about the longevity of your tree, check out our article: 5 Simple Steps To Save A Tree With Stripped Bark! This guide will give you some tips on how to treat a tree wound and what you can do to improve the tree’s chance of survival if this is the case.
Trees Squeak At Night
Squeaking is certainly one of the most unsettling noises to hear from a tree at night. Like a door to a spooky house slowly opening to reveal a monster. Boo!
Despite the noise, squeaking trees have a far less sinister cause. Squeaking happens when two branches of a tree cross over each other and rub together in the wind. It can also happen when neighboring trees have branches that cross over each other.
If you’re hearing eerie squeaking noises at night from your landscape trees, it’s time to bust out the pruning shears and trim your trees.
Preferably, you’ll want to prune tree branches before they grow too large. If you notice branches are starting to cross over, or even appear to be growing in that direction, prune one of them as soon as possible.
According to New Mexico State University, the best time to prune is January through March, but you can prune as early as October if necessary.
For small branches, consider using pruning sheers such as Professional Premium Titanium Bypass Pruning Shears. They can cut up to ¾-inch branches and are good for when you see branches beginning to grow together.
For larger branches, Tabor Tools Anvil Lopper Tree Trimmer works well. It can cut branches up to 2 inches thick and has a long handle to give you maximum leverage when cutting through a larger branch.
Once you’ve eliminated crossing branches, you should not hear any more squeaking noises coming from your landscape trees!
Trimming these types of branches also promotes healthy growth for your trees. Branches will no longer need to compete with one another for space or resources.
For tips on how to prune large trees, check out our article on the best time to prune large trees – you’ll need them!
Trees Whisper, Shush, And Cackle At Night
The leaves of trees look different with each change of the season. In spring, leaves are a luscious green, freshly grown. During the summer, leaves begin to lighten from sun exposure. In fall we see the brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds as leaves prepare to drop.
The way leaves sound in the wind will depend on what season it is. During spring, the rustling of leaves can be characterized as more of a whisper at night. The leaves are smooth and therefore make a light noise as they sway in the wind.
During the fall, the leaves of most trees are drying out and getting ready to drop. When these leaves rustle in the wind it’s more of a cackle as the dry leaves swing in the wind.
Yet another varying noise is what evergreen leaves sound like. After all, these trees stay green all year and do not lose their leaves en masse like deciduous trees. Trees like pines, spruce, redwood, fir, and cypress all keep their leaves year-round.
These trees, especially those with needles, make shushing noises when the wind blows at night. This is due to the needles rubbing against one another.
So, how much wind does there need to be to cause trees to whisper, cackle, and shush? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), winds around 4 miles per hour are enough to rustle leaves.
When winter comes around and most trees are bare, another noise happens from the lack of leaves. But we’ll get to that a little later!
Trees Crack At Night
Winter is tough on a lot of people. It’s cold, it’s dreary, and you have to put on six layers of clothing to walk outside. Trees have it rough in the winter, too.
During the cold days of winter, trees are susceptible to something called frost crack. According to Michigan State University, the most susceptible trees include:
- Sycamore (most common)
- Maple Tree
- Apple Tree
- Cherry Tree
- Horse Chestnut Tree
- Linden Tree
- Walnut Tree
- Willow Tree
For frost crack to happen, it needs to be a particularly sunny winter day followed by a very cold night. During the day, the sun warms the bark, especially on the south or west side of the tree. The bark will swell a little bit in the heat.
As the sun sets and temperatures drop rapidly, the inner wood and outer bark shrink, but at different rates. The outer bark shrinks right away, but the inner wood takes a bit longer. The result? Craaaaack.
The different sizes of the bark create a loud cracking noise and a tear is formed in the bark. Luckily, most of the time these cracks can be healed over the years by the tree.
If your landscape tree suffers from frost crack, don’t be surprised if the wound closes in the summer and re-opens in the winter.
This is due to fluctuating temperatures. In the summer, warm temperatures swell the bark, closing the wound. In the winter, the bark shrinks, pulling back and revealing the wound. This is normal. Over the years the tree will eventually seal the wound so that even in the winter it does not show.
Trees Make Scratching Noises At Night
Tree noises can be just as ominous as a coyote’s howl at night. One of the other noises that trees can make at night is scratching.
Trees make scratching noises when their branches rub up against a hard surface such as the side of a building, a fence, or a telephone pole.
If you happen to hear this type of noise coming from your landscape trees, it’s probably time to trim your trees back. Scratching branches can sometimes damage siding or chip paint if it happens for an extended period.
Trees that are scratching against a utility pole will typically be taken care of by the utility company. Otherwise, you can find out where the scratching noise is coming from and trim those branches yourself if they are within reasonable reach.
You’re more likely to hear this noise at the top of a tree, as some trees don’t grow many branches at the bottom of the tree.
Animals Make Noises In Trees At Night
There are hundreds of bugs, birds, and mammals that frequently use trees as either a home or just a place to hang out. At night, there are still plenty of critters living in or climbing on the trees.
Some animals are looking for food, others a place to sleep for the night. No matter why they’re in the tree, they tend to be noisy about it.
A few of the most common nighttime animals that make noises from trees include:
- Tree Crickets
- Tree Frogs
According to the University of Illinois, Katydid ‘songs’ are most prevalent in late summer. This is true for tree crickets as well.
Some frog species will climb into trees at night and produce a chirping/whirring sound. Spring peepers, for example, prefer to be on the ground but are excellent climbers and sometimes find their way into trees at night.
Owls are frequent visitors to trees, often resting on large branches near the trunk. If they are incubating or raising chicks they may sit in a nest built by other animals or birds. Owls do more than just hoot, they also whistle, coo, sing, and bark.
Raccoons are another frequent nighttime visitor to trees. Raccoons climb trees to look for food, reach rooftops, or escape predators. Raccoons make quite a ruckus and can squeal, bark, yip, growl, and hiss.
Certain insects can also make noises in trees at night. To learn more, take a peak at our article on the most common insects that live in trees!
Trees Howl and Whistle In The Wind At Night
We can’t discuss all the odd noises trees make at night without mentioning the eerie howl of the wind as it whips through the trees.
Again, this noise isn’t technically made by trees. But howling wind is almost always associated with trees (and spookiness!)
The howling and whistling noises of the wind are created by friction. In this situation, the friction is between the wind and the tree branches.
As the air moves over and around the branch, it creates a howling or whistling noise, depending on the size of the twigs/branches.
Howling wind is especially prevalent when trees lose their leaves in the Fall and Winter months. Leaves can dampen some of the sounds created by the wind, but when there are no leaves, the wind is free to howl and whistle as loud as it wants!
Remember, trees will be trees and this is just a normal part of nature!
That’s A Wrap!
Trees are living organisms that have a lot to say to the world around them. Just because they’re stationary doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of talking to do.
To recap, the 11 different noises that trees make at night include:
- Whispering – wind rustling through spring leaves
- Shushing – wind rustling through spring/summer leaves
- Cackling – wind rustling through dry leaves
- Creaking – when a dead branch is getting ready to fall
- Groaning – when a trunk has an old wound
- Squeaking – branches rubbing together
- Cracking – from frost crack
- Scratching – against buildings, fences, and materials
- Bugs & animals in the trees
- Howling – wind
- Whistling – wind
Some of the common solutions to making these noises go away include proper pruning and trimming of your landscape trees. Make sure your trees aren’t growing too close to your house or your fence, as this can be a source of noisiness at night.
Good luck on your tree journey!
Burton, J. I., Zenner, E. K., & Frelich, L. E. (2008, September 01). Frost Crack Incidence in Northern Hardwood Forests of the Southern Boreal – North Temperate Transition Zone. Northern Journal of Applied Forestry, 25(3), 133-138. https://academic.oup.com/njaf/article/25/3/133/4780135?login=true
Holloway, B. (2011). The Tree and Its Voices: What the Casuarina Says. Swamphen: A Journal of Cultural Ecology, 1. https://openjournals.library.sydney.edu.au/index.php/Swamphen/article/view/10586
Mhatre, N., Bhattacharya, M., Robert, D., & Balakrishnan, R. (2011, August 01). Matching sender and receiver: poikilothermy and frequency tuning in a tree cricket. Journal of Experimental Biology, 214(15). https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/214/15/2569/10430/Matching-sender-and-receiver-poikilothermy-and
Okkonen, J., Neupauer, R. M., Kozlovskaya, E., Afonin, N., Moisio, K., Taewook, K., & Muurinen, E. (2020, Setember 11). Frost Quakes: Crack Formation by Thermal Stress. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 125(9). https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2020JF005616