Where do birds go to sleep? Do birds sleep in the same place every night, or do they find a different place to roost every day? Do they like to retire to their nests at night? Answers to more such questions in the article below…
No, most bird species do not sleep in the same place every night. But of course, there are a few that do, like woodpeckers, Verdins and Cactus, and Carolina Wrens.
But on the whole, where birds sleep is as varied as the number of species of birds there are.
One place most birds don’t sleep every night is their nest. If you imagine a pair of birds comfortably curled up in their nest at night, sleeping with their babies, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The fact is after birds are done rearing their young, most parent birds actually leave their nests behind, never to return. Most of their nests are so riddled with bugs and feces that they will fall apart almost as soon as they are abandoned.
Where Do All of These Birds Sleep at Night?
The most common types of birds you see in your garden or backyard often sleep somewhere close to where you see them during the day.
Although they won’t be sleeping on your open lawn as that would expose them to too many threats, they will be perched in nearby thickets and bushes. Anywhere where they can feel as safe as possible.
At night birds are highly susceptible to a host of hungry predators looking for a tasty meal. Owls, bats, foxes, and even snakes are what they are most afraid of.
And, of course, your cute little kitty cat will happily snack on them. In fact, domestic outdoor cats kill an estimated 1.3–4.0 BILLION birds a year, every year! Yeah, birds have a tough life.
So most birds either look to hiding spots like bird houses, nooks, and crannies in trees or perched high on the tops of trees to better deal with predators.
TIP: If you do have a cat, bring it indoors from dusk to dawn when birds and other creatures are most vulnerable to felines.
How Do Birds Sleep?
Most birds will simply grab onto a twig or branch while fluffing up their downy feathers, which hold insulating air pockets to keep themselves warm.
Then they bury their beaks and pull one foot up into their feathers to get into a sleeping position as if they were doing a yoga pose.
It’s even been speculated the reason they bury their beaks into their plumage is so they can also breathe pre-warmed air from next to the body, thus using even less energy since their lungs don’t need to do the extra work of heating the air.
Other birds like ducks will basically do the same, only in water or close to shore.
Why Don’t Birds Fall Off While Sleeping?
Many birds have evolved with the ability to grab onto a branch or something similar and instinctively lock onto it with a vice-like grip due to their flexor tendons.
These tendons work when a bird bends a knee, locking its talons and toes into place. And once locked, it’s almost impossible for the birds to fall.
Even upside-down sleeping bats use this same locking mechanism.
It seems to be automatic for the birds in the way that they need to think about it in order to unlock their feet rather than to lock them.
You can see this when birds prepare to fly, their feet only let go at the last second when their legs are straight again.
Roosts and Roosting
When talking about sleeping birds, the correct terminology is “roosting” rather than sleeping. And where a bird conks out is their “roost,” even if it’s just a twig on a tree.
Even ducks sleeping in the middle of a lake are roosting, and their roost is the lake.
One way ducks use their roost for protection is by feeling vibrations in the water. This will immediately wake them up because actually, only half the duck is truly asleep or roosting.
And it’s not just ducks.
Do Birds Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
No, they don’t sleep with their eyes open, but they do often sleep with one eye open. Since this is an interesting topic in itself, we have covered it separately.
Sleeping in Flocks
Another way birds protect themselves against predators is to sleep in groups or flocks. You may have seen pictures or videos of huge flocks of crows or starlings all flying together and roosting on the tops of trees, in tree cavities, or even in rafters or chimneys.
Flocking together in this way is similar to how small fish pool together for safety.
Each individual in the communal flock has a better chance of not being eaten when in a group than on their own, especially if they are lucky enough to be in the center of the group.
And a flock of ears is better than two on an independent bird as threats are a lot easier to hear with literally thousands of anxious ears listening.
Furthermore, many smaller bird species sleep in confined areas as flocks to keep warm in cold weather. They all huddle together in a communal “bedroom” of sorts and watch each other’s backs on cold nights. Each relies on the next for heat and protection.
It’s even common to see a bunch of ducks on a pond roosting together for warmth and protection. The ducks on the edges of the group will all have one eye open, while the ducks in the middle seem to feel safer and close both eyes while they are roosting.
On the other hand, another water bird – the flamingo, sleeps in a flock standing up on one leg.
When Do Birds Sleep and Wake Up?
One way to make this question a bit simpler is to understand the type, diurnal bird or nocturnal.
Diurnal simply means that these types of birds are active during the day, just like you and I. From dawn to dusk, they eat, fly and do all the things birds do.
Nocturnal birds like owls are most “awake” when it’s dark, so they do their thing between dusk and dawn and sleep during daylight hours.
But most birds are Diurnal. And at night, they also sleep like us. Well, sort of
Do Birds Sleep During the Day?
Yes, all birds do sleep during the day in short little power naps, especially if they are really tired due to a lack of sleep due to migration or mating during the breeding season.
This includes both diurnal and nocturnal birds.
Most birds sleep more in bursts than in hours like you and I. In fact, according to Audubon.org, “Non-rapid Eye Movement sleep averages around two and a half minutes and Rapid Eye Movement sleep is about nine seconds.” This means their deep sleep cycles are just a few seconds long.
And it has now been discovered that many migrating birds that lose a lot of sleep due to long migration flights also nap in order to make up for lost sleep sometimes while they are airborne.
These “power” naps are usually less than 30 seconds and are still only one-sided USWS sleep (Unispheric Slow Wave Sleep) when one half of the brain rests, and the other half is alert).
If you want to know if a bird is asleep or napping, just see if one eye is closed. This usually means it’s trying to catch some ZZZzzz’s, and you should leave it alone. The little guy probably needs the sleep.
Sleeping birds are never really completely asleep, and their sleeping habits are as varied as the many species of birds there are in the world.
Some birds sleep in groups, floating in the water, upside down, and even in mid-air while they’re flying.
And through millions of years of evolution, they have adapted these traits to fend off predators and conserve energy. And it seems it has worked well for them.
But maybe instead of leaving out piles of birdseed, we should be leaving out cups of coffee.