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How Do Birds Sleep: Explaining Birds’ Sleeping Habits

do birds sleep

Did you know that many avian creatures have the ability to control their sleep and keep half of their brain conscious while the other half is asleep? But how do birds sleep in this state?

While birds’ sleeping habits vary depending on their species, their unique skills are nothing short of amazing!

And in this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How and why do birds sleep
  • What time do birds go to sleep
  • How long do they rest at night
  • Where do they sleep

But before we dive deep into that, you probably wonder: do birds need sleep, and how can it affect their body?

Do Birds Sleep and Why?

Definitely yes! Just like in humans, birds need to sleep to restore their bodies and mind.

Lack of sleep in pet birds can lead to undesirable consequences like anxiety and problematic behaviors like shrieking, biting, and tugging out of their feathers.

It can also weaken the immune system and make them prone to sickness.

So, don’t be surprised if your once sweet bird becomes grouchy and crabby if it’s sleep-deprived.

how do birds sleep

But How Do Birds Sleep At Night?

In this section, we will talk about how birds sleep. Avians have unique sleeping positions and behavior that makes them wondrous creatures.

Let’s start with bird sleeping habits which may seem unusual, but we’ll give insight into why it makes sense.

Sleeping Positions in Birds

Standing Up on One Foot

Birds sleeping at night tend to tuck one foot up into their feathers, then lock their feet around the branch.

These creatures can remain stable despite closing their eyes.

Tucking their Head into Feathers

The other common sleeping habit of birds is to rotate and tuck the head into the feathers.

Most songbirds and waterfowl fluff out their down feathers and bury the vulnerable parts of their body in their feathers to protect them.

When a bird tucks its feet or bill under its feathers, less body heat is lost. A bird’s feathers help it stay warm by creating insulating air pockets.

A bird can breathe air warmed by its body heat when its bill is buried deep within its feathers.

Sleeping in Flocks

Another common sleeping habits of birds are to sleep and roost in groups.

Each individual bird has a better chance of surviving when it roosts communally, with some species building nighttime roosts of thousands of individuals.

This is because there are more birds to notice predators and more prey should a predator attack.

In order to share body heat and survive the colder evening temperatures, many birds roost together in cramped areas in the winter, especially little passerines like chickadees, tits, and bluebirds.

The Unihemispheric Slow-Wave Sleep (USWS)

Birds are vulnerable to cold weather, predators, and noisy neighbors at night. So how do they sleep with all these things to worry about?

Well, birds usually sleep in small snatches and may get awakened when startled by a predator threat, noisy neighbor, or cold temperature.

Others sleep with one eye open. How is it possible?

Birds use unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS), which enables them to wake up rapidly in the event of a threat while yet being able to snooze soundly in the absence of one.

With USWS, birds can control half of their brain to stay alert by keeping one eye open while the other brain rests along with the other eye.

Waterfowl and ducks excel at this, but other birds like peregrine falcons and Eurasian blackbirds can also do it. These species may even be able to sleep while flying, thanks to USWS!

Migratory birds also utilize this technique because lengthy migration flights don’t provide many opportunities for rest stops.

However, a bird using USWS might navigate and sleep at the same time. In fact, there is proof that the Alpine Swift can fly for 200 days without stopping and sleeping.

Why Don’t Birds Fall from Trees While Sleeping?

There’s a low chance a roosting bird will fall from their perch because when a bird perches, the tendons in its talons, known as the flexor tendons, tighten and effectively close its grip.

And the tendons loosen, and the grip is freed when it straightens its legs!

This amazing bird feet anatomy helps them to have a good grip and lock their feet around the branch they’re resting on. And it explains why they don’t slip off or fall off their perch.

When Do Birds Sleep?

So, at what time do birds sleep? Diurnal birds in the wild usually sleep at dusk or sunset and wake up at dawn.

On the other hand, nocturnal birds like owls and nighthawks are active at night, so they wake up when the sun sets and hunt during nighttime.

Sleep-deprived birds may also nap during the daytime, but those who enjoy enough sleep rarely do so.

Where Do Birds Sleep At Night Time?

Now, let’s talk about where birds sleep at night.

Wild birds rarely sleep in open spaces. Instead, they pick covert, shielded areas safe from predators and the elements.

Even terrestrial birds, like wild turkeys, frequently sleep on trees out of reach in those sites, which are typically off the ground to escape creeping predators.

But not all birds sleep on tree branches. For example, waterfowl and shorebirds sleep near the water’s edge. Some ducks rest on a partially submerged stick or rock, then tuck one foot into their body.

Smaller birds nestle under thick vegetation or brush that offers sufficient protection.

Many birds look for cavities where they can sleep comfortably, such as vacant birdhouses or roosting boxes, hollow trees, small caves or rock crevices, chimneys, or even just the deep crook of a tree.

On the other end, wading birds and waterfowl frequently roost on the water, floating securely away from predators, or using small islands as their roosting locations.

In general, birds do not sleep in their nests. Although a bird may rest on the nest while actively incubating eggs or keeping young chicks warm, after the birds are grown, they do not go back to the nesting place to sleep.

After the nesting season, a nest is frequently covered in feces, food scraps, shed feathers, and other debris. The intensive usage of numerous hatchlings may also have caused the nest to become mite-infested and to fall apart frequently.

While some birds will return to birdhouses for winter roosting, they will only do so if the birdhouse has been well-cleaned and winterized to be as functional as possible. This renders it unsuitable for sleeping.

Where Do Birds Sleep When Migrating?

Some birds can sleep while flying, while other avian pets rest at pit stops before bidding goodbye and migrating.

Where Do Birds Sleep During Winter?

Cavity nesters such as nuthatches, titmice, and downy woodpeckers like to rest in tree cavities and nest boxes during the cold season, while others hide in chimneys, abandoned buildings, or birdhouses.

how long do birds sleep

How Long Do Birds Sleep

So, how many hours do these feathery creatures sleep, and how much sleep do birds need?

On average, birds in the tropics sleep for 10 to 12 hours per day, which means that in their 24-hour cycle, they spend 12 hours sleeping and 12 hours awake.

The type of parrots who need this much sleeping times are:

  • African grey parrots
  • Macaws
  • Cockatoos
  • Alexandrines
  • Amazons
  • Eclectus
  • Caiques
  • Senegal
  • Cape parrots
  • Quakers
  • Ringneck
  • Red-bellied parrots

But parrots that live away from the equator, such as Kea, Australian Parakeets, and Ringneck, have slightly different habits. They need 10 hours of light and 14 hours of darkness during winter, so they sleep more in winter.

But it gets reversed during summer, so they have less sleeping time during this season.

Is It Normal for Birds to Sleep All Day?

Birds usually don’t sleep all day unless they’re molting. During the molting season, they need lots of energy to grow their feathers. So, they need more sleep than usual and may sleep all day.

If your avian companion is not going through a molting process but is sleeping all day long, you need to visit your avian vet for a health checkup for your pet.

Do Birds Have Dreams?

According to research on zebra finches in the late 1990s by Amish S. Dave and Daniel Margoliash of the University of Chicago, birds do dream.

According to the researchers, the same brain region stimulated during a song is also active during sleep, so birds like finches appear to dream of their song.

Some birds, such as lovebirds, happily chatter away and sing aloud while they sleeping during a daytime nap. However, they don’t do this at night.

The sleeping chatter and the small motions accompanying it may deter daytime predators. But singing at night will attract the bird’s attention, increasing its vulnerability.

How to Help Birds Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Birds are sensitive to noises and shadows that cause night frights, but you can help them rest by following the tips below:

  • Create a bird-friendly landscape with excellent sleeping spots like roosting boxes, native coniferous trees, or brush piles.
  • Put up fences for feral cats and other predators to avoid birdhouses and roosting areas so that no sleeping birds are endangered.
  • Provide your birds with sunflower seeds, almonds, and suet which are good sources of wholesome, calorie-dense food that may sustain birds through long, chilly nights.
  • Put outside lighting that might confuse birds, interfere with their usual nocturnal cycles, or draw predators to sleeping birds.
  • Cover their cage at night to block all the lights if necessary.

birds sleeping

Frequently Asked Questions About Birds’ Sleeping Behavior

How long does a bird sleep?

Birds sleep an average of 10 to 12 hours at night, but it could vary because they sleep more in winter and less in summer.

That’s because they don’t need to use much energy during the cold winter season.

How do you know if birds are sleeping?

Birds often fluff up their feathers to cover their body and keep a high body temperature, turn their head around and tuck their beaks into their back feathers when they’re sleeping in a standing position.

Most of them sleep with their eyes closed, but some species, like ducks, keep their other eye open as they enter USWS or unihemispheric slow-wave sleep.

Do all birds go to sleep at night?

Most birds are diurnal, but not all birds go to sleep at night because nocturnal birds like owls and nightjars sleep during the day and carry out their hunting activities at night.

They wake up when the sun sets and rest at a safe place at night by closing their eyes to block all the light.

Which bird cannot sleep?

All birds need sleep to recharge their bodies but birds like flamingos and ducks never fully sleep because half of their brain is active and alert.

They’re vulnerable to predators in the wild, so they must be observant of their surroundings to avoid falling victim to predators.

Can birds fall while sleeping?

Birds rarely fall from their perch because their feet were designed so that when they place weight on their feet, their leg muscles automatically force the tendons to tighten and keep them close.

That’s the secret to their vice-like grip that prevents them from slipping off.

Do birds sleep better in the dark?

A study by Zeynep Ulgezen from Wageningen University in The Netherlands discovered that all birds prefer to sleep under light instead of in constant darkness.

Do birds sleep with their eyes open?

As said earlier, some birds, like ducks and flamingos, have the innate USWS or Unihemispheric slow-wave sleeping skill that allows them to shut one of their eyes.

That is crucial since they’re vulnerable to predators, especially in the wild.

Why do birds hide their heads when they sleep?

Scientists explain that tucking the head on the wings while sleeping is linked to lower respiratory and metabolic rates.

And by hiding, the birds lose less heat than usual. Furthermore, it helps protect and keep their face, beak, and eyes.

Why is my bird sleeping a lot?

Sleeping more than the average hours of sleep can indicate an illness, most especially if the bird sleeps on two feet and fluff up their feathers

Do birds sleep standing up?

Most birds prefer to sleep standing. They have special tendons and muscles in their feet that “lock” into position when they sleep to prevent them from falling off the perch.

when do birds sleep

Final Recap: How Do Birds Sleep At Night?

Birds sleep, and their sleeping position and habits in the wild vary depending on their species.

Some birds, like parrots, can sleep while perching on a tree with their legs tucked into their feathers. On the other hand, waterfowl like ducks and flamingos fluff out their feathers, rotate their head, and tuck them along with their bill into their feather.

Several species prefer to sleep in flocks. But others use USWS or unihemispheric slow-wave sleep to keep the other brain and eye awake and alert while the other is asleep to protect themselves from predators.

But how do birds sleep in captivity? Birds have retained their sleeping habits in the wild.

But since most pet birds are housed in a cage, they’re less vulnerable to predators but sensitive to noise and light. It puts them at a high chance of being sleep-deprived.

But by following our tips above and respecting your bird’s sleeping time, you can keep your avian companion happy and healthy.

READ NEXT: Do Chickens Sleep Standing Up?

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