How do Birds Sleep? Explained

Like other animals, birds need adequate rest to function properly. However, many birds exhibit unusual sleeping habits. 

In this article, you will discover all you need to know about the sleeping pattern of birds and where they sleep.

Where Birds Sleep

Contrary to what you may think, birds do not sleep in nests. They will only sleep in their nests when incubating their eggs or raising their young ones. Depending on the species, birds prefer to sleep in many different locations.

Most birds prefer to sleep in a secluded place that offers some warmth. Hence, they will sleep in abandoned buildings, enclosed garages, and hollow tree trunks. Water fowls such as swans and ducks prefer roosting near open water bodies.

Several factors influence the choice of any bird’s roosting place. Many birds prefer to sleep on tree branches, and this way, they remain close to other members of the flock. Some birds prefer hiding away in rock crevices to ensure they are safe from their natural predators while sleeping.

When do Birds Sleep?

sleeping owl

Most birds retire to their roosts as the sun starts to set, and a few, like the hummingbird, stay up until visibility diminishes. However, birds do not need to wait until dusk before they sleep, and many are known to take frequent daytime naps.

Most migratory birds also can sleep while they are in flight. This occurrence is due to the unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS) stage migratory birds possess. The slow-wave sleep allows migratory birds to nap and travel while keeping an eye open.

The time a bird chooses to roost depends largely on its habits. Nocturnal birds such as owls sleep most of the day since they can only see at night.

How Often Birds Sleep

Birds will sleep as often as they require. While birds roost mostly at night, nothing stops them from sleeping during the day. However, injured and sick birds will fall asleep more often than healthy birds.

Broody females sleep more often since they remain stationary while incubating their eggs.

How Long Do Birds Sleep?

Just like humans, birds can roost from dusk to dawn. However, they do not remain asleep throughout the entire time. Birds sleep in short bursts, and they remain highly alert and will awaken at the slightest chance of danger.

In addition, birds will often adjust their sleeping posture or change their roosting location to cope with adverse weather conditions or escape natural predators.

How Birds Sleep Without Falling?

sleeping birds

Most birds stand on convenient perches while sleeping. So many people find this phenomenon absurd and wonder how birds manage such a feat without falling. However, there is a reason why this process is possible.

The major reason a bird can remain on a branch all through their sleep without falling lies mainly in the unique formation of its legs. Birds that sleep on branches have four toes on each leg, and three of these toes face forward, while the last toe faces the bird’s rear.

When the bird lands on any branch, the tendons in its legs cause its toes to contract. Hence, the toes wrap around the stem and grip it like a vice. The bird’s toes will remain in this position until the bird takes off from the branch.

This unique adaptation of the bird’s legs is so effective that such birds are known to remain firmly perched on a branch long after death.

How Birds Stay Warm At Night while Sleeping

Many birds seek warm shelters for their roost. However, most birds have a natural adaptation that enables them to stay warm throughout the night. Birds have two layers of feathers. 

Beneath the outer layers of flight feathers, we can easily observe birds have a soft layer of downy feathers. At night, birds fluff up the fluffy feathers to create a smooth layer of insulation that keeps them warm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Birds Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Many birds sleep with their eyes closed. However, by entering the unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS), birds such as ducks can keep one eye open while asleep. 

Some birds can regulate the activity of their brains and limit their performance while asleep with their eyes. Hence, you can tell how much of the bird’s brain is awake by looking at how open its eye is.

Do Birds Have Nightmares?

It is unclear if birds dream at all. However, evidence shows that, like humans, birds possess the REM sleep patterns that enable humans to dream.

How Do Birds Sleep In A Cage?

Birds will find a suitable perch in their cages and tuck their heads under a wing when they wish to sleep.

If you have a pet you keep indoors for most of the day. You must turn off the room lights when you place them in the cage at night. Also, a bird cage cover is used to shield the bird from any surrounding light. This way, your bird gets a sense of daytime and night-time.

Do Birds Sleep On Their Backs?

It is uncommon for birds to sleep while lying on their backs. However, birds like parrots will rest on their backs to show that they feel relaxed and trust their owners.

Other birds often lie on their backs due to illness or injury.

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