How & When Do Birds Sleep? | Do Birds Sleep Standing Up? | Do Birds Dream?

Sleep is incredibly important for birds. It is all about being cozy and safe. 

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds

It is the time when they are able to rest their tired bodies and when the body heals itself and prepares for the next day. Since most birds seemingly disappear at night, you might have wondered – Do birds sleep at all? If yes, do they lie down somewhere or just sleep standing up?

Of course, birds sleep, though the hours may vary in different species. Some birds settle down in their nests or tree cavities while others perch on sheltered tree branches, as their body and feet are structured in a way to balance them in their sleep. Waterbirds like ducks can fall asleep even while floating on water!

Small breeds of birds do not usually sleep in the low-lying area where the predators like cats can hunt them. They will hide in a dense bush or behind camouflaged foliage.

Are Birds Night Riders Or Day Flyers? Do birds sleep at night or during the day?

Birds like owls prey and hunt at night thus, they hardly sleep at night and will sleep the entire day. Categorized as “Nocturnal” birds, which include nighthawks, owl, kiwi, frogmouth, etc. are the night riders as they hunt during the night. Thus, their sleeping patterns differ from other daytime flyer birds.

Diurnal birds have regular sleeping patterns like humans. They sleep during the night like us. They will sleep on the perch, branch, or perhaps a windowsill at night. They will fluff out their feathers to get that cozy feeling, turning their beaks in their feathers, and will doze off immediately. Tucking themselves in such a manner helps them to stay warm when the temperature dips.

Where Do Birds Sleep?

Contrary to popular opinion, not all birds sleep standing up on branches. Some birds, especially those with eggs, sleep in their nests. Others may prefer to find small holes or protected areas in trees to curl up and sleep in. 

Waterfowl and birds that frequent the ocean shores sleep near the water. Waterbirds like ducks often stand at the edge of the water or on a secure stick or rock and tuck one foot in while sleeping there.

Terrestrial birds like Turkey lay down under the trees. Small species of birds will sneak into bushes or dense bush that offers them shelter from predators as well as relaxation.

You’ll see most of the birds in the wild will have their nest unoccupied and will be resting in the bark of the trees, shallow caves, chimneys, cliffs or boxes, or those places where they feel protected.

Related Read: Why Do Birds Stand On One Leg?

How Do Birds Sleep?

Unlike humans, birds can control their sleep. As per studies, birds use “Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep” (USWS), this allows them to sleep with one eye open and half brain active. This way they stay alert while sleeping and can sense the dangers and their predators in the dark.

Additionally, scientists have found that most birds sleep in small intervals instead of one long cycle. They wake up often and this can be due to some nearby noise, predatory threat, or weather conditions like cold or rain. 

Why Do Birds Sleep on One Leg?

The main reason why birds sleep on one leg is to reduce the amount of body heat they lose while asleep. A bird with a foot tucked in its warm feathers will lose half the amount of body heat it will with both legs exposed to the cool night air. 

Additionally, during cold winter months, birds like sparrows fluff out their feathers to cover both legs. This keeps them warm.

Why Don’t Birds Fall Off Their Perch When Sleeping?

There is no magic but scientific reasons behind it.

Perching birds, also called ‘passerines’ don’t fall off their branches because they stand on their toes. Most birds have 4 toes, of which the first toe is turned backward and the other three face forward.

These toes are primarily bone and tendons which ensure they have a strong grip on whatever the birds perch on. This involuntary action ensures that birds don’t fall off their perch.

Related Read: Do Birds Fall From The Sky If They Stop Flapping Their Wings?

Do Birds Dream?

Interesting question and a curious one too. There is no specific answer to this question.

Though scientists have monitored the brain waves of birds during sleep, they have not yet found conclusive evidence of whether or not birds dream. Birds do exhibit patterns of REM sleep. 

Interestingly, in zebra finches, it has been observed that during sleep there are systemic pattern bursts in the song system part of the brain. Scientists believe that this is similar to a dreamlike pattern which may help birds in remembering songs and trills. 

Do birds sleep with their heads tucked under their wings?

This is actually partially a myth. Not all birds sleep with their head tucked under their wing. In fact, they actually bend their heads back and rest them on their backs while nuzzling their breaks into their feathers. 

This helps birds to relax their neck muscles and also helps in heat conservation.

How Do Birds Get A Good Night Sleep?

Birds will never sleep deeply. It makes them vulnerable to their predators. Most birds sleep in a state of partial consciousness. This way if a life-threatening situation develops, they are ready to escape instantly.

However, if you are having pet birds or as a caretaker of birds either in-home, zoo or sanctuary park then follow the below-mentioned steps that make sure they get a good night’s sleep:

  • Offer them high-calorie food such as nuts, seeds, and suet. This way they can resist cold temperatures, helping them keep warm during the nights.
  • Dim the outdoor lighting that will disrupt their sleep. Also, this keeps them awake for long, disturbing their sleeping patterns.
  • Keep them away from their predators or even pet animals like cats and dogs if you have them in the house/backyard. This too disrupts their sleeping patterns.
  • Develop a bird-friendly atmosphere that promotes good sleep such as tree houses, roosting boxes, brush piles, etc.

In conclusion, birds like us have similar patterns of sleeping. However, they are conscious sleepers thus, their brain remains active ensuring to keep safe even during sleep. Those who are having pet birds are recommended to have a good cozy atmosphere for them which promotes healthy life.

Related Read: How To Cope With The Loss Of My Pet Bird

Some interesting sleeping behaviour in birds

  • While migrating, the Great Frigatebird stays in the air for more than 2 months without touching the ground for food, water or rest. Scientists have found that these birds can astonishingly sleep while flying and navigating!
  • Whilte roosting, bobwhite quails huddle in a tight circle on the ground. They keep their heads facing towards the outside so they can escape in case of a dangerous situation. 
  • Sea-ducks can sleep while floating in the ocean.


The sleeping patterns of birds are diverse and quite interesting to learn about. Birds like owls and bats sleep during the day while parrots and pigeons sleep at night. 

Some birds sleep on the ground, others standing on branches, and some even during the flight! How amazing is that? Even while asleep, birds tend to remain partially conscious so that they can make quick getaways if a dangerous situation arises.

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