When Do Birds Go To Sleep?
When Do They Wake Up?

Do you ever wonder if the birds also sleep at night as you do? If so, how can you sometimes hear them at night? Have they already woken up?

Iñigo Navarro Profile Picture

Iñigo Navarro

June 20, 2021


When Do Birds Go To Sleep? When Do They Wake Up? Thumbnail

What’s This Post About?

If you have a backyard that is usually filled with birds, you get used to the constant beautiful chirps all day long.

You must wonder though what the birds are up to when the backyard starts getting quieter as the sun goes down. Do they have a specific sleeping schedule or do they sleep based on exhaustion? Read below to find out the answer!

Most birds start preparing for sleep as the sun starts to go down. They are called Diurnal birds. These birds often wake up as the sun rises the next day. Their body clock is scheduled around the timings of the sun. However, just like humans, their sleep can also be disrupted due to various reasons.

a hummingbird sleeping

When Do Birds Go To Sleep?

Most birds are diurnal, which means they are up throughout the day and sleep soundly at night. Other birds like owls are nocturnal birds that rise when the sun sets and hunt at night. They locate a secure location during the day and shut their eyes to filter out the sunshine.

a duck sleeping

If you devote a lot of time observing birds, you’ll quickly discover when the ideal times are to see them. Early morning and late evening, for example, are the busiest times for yard bird feeders. This is because during this period, birds are flying off to sleep in the late evening.

When the sun sets, most daytime birds seek for safe, secluded roosts to sleep. Some common diurnal birds are:

  • Herons

  • Swans

  • Geese

  • Ducks

  • Woodpeckers

  • Hummingbirds

  • Songbirds and other Passerines

  • And most Raptors

hummingbird close to sleep

Several people believe that all birds are diurnal, meaning that they are productive throughout the day and sleep soundly at night, however, this is not the case.

These are known as nocturnal birds, and they will relax and sleep through the day, but will be energetic at nightfall and far into the midnight, they will start slowing down as morning draws.

There are certain nighttime North American bird species that stand out particularly including:

  • Owls

  • Nightjars

  • Night hawks

  • Night herons

  • Nocturnal seabirds

an owl is sleeping

Did You Know?

Contrary to popular belief, not all owls are nocturnal. Birds like northern hawk owl and snowy owl are diurnal.

Why Do I Hear Some Birds At Night?

The bird chirps that you hear at night can be nocturnal birds, migrating species, mating birds, or even the annoyed ones who got disturbed amidst sleep.

You could hear or see birds during the night time occasionally, and they aren’t necessarily nighttime species out hunting for food. Birds categorized as diurnal may use the evening hours to do other things like migrate and find mates because it is easier and quieter.

Many types of songbirds and shorebirds move at nighttime in North America, even though they are normally diurnal. You may wonder why they choose to travel such tiring journeys at a time when they should rather be sleeping.

There are some advantages these nocturnal migrants benefit from:

  • The climate is generally calmer and cooler and such air conditions make flying less tiring.

  • There’s also less chance of predation.

  • Staying safe from predators and large birds

  • Birds utilize stars to navigate well.

birds flying at night

Mockingbirds, and Common Nightingales, are well-known evening songbirds in North America. Male birds sing to attract females, and nonmated birds have been observed to chirp more during the night than mated ones. Experts justify this by saying:

  • There is less competition at night

  • Background noise is minimal

Just like humans, birds can also be woken up from slumber if they are disturbed.

a swan sleeping

If you are sure that it isn’t a night-time bird, it might be a diurnal bird irritated by street lights or even the moonlight. When disturbed, birds such as the robin, and hedge sparrow are known to sing during the night.

Why Can You Find A Bird Sleep During The Day?

While birds have a sleep schedule, there will be times that you will find birds going against it. There isn’t anything wrong with the bird. You may find a bird napping during the day out of sheer exhaustion to regain energy, it has nothing else to do or because the night’s sleep was disturbed.

bird sleeping in high tree branches

There are birds like owls that are nocturnal that sleep during the day. However, this does not mean that every bird you find napping during daylight is a nighttime bird. There can be various other reasons why birds will choose to snooze during the day. The reasons include:

  • After hours of finding food and foraging the bird is often tired

  • It spends the night migrating and uses the day for refueling on energy

  • Bird is bored and has nothing else to do

  • Catching up on the sleep it missed last night due to disturbances such as presence of light

How Long Do They Need To Sleep?

During the colder months, robins have been heard singing often near a lamppost or other light source.

Birds do not require much sleep but are compelled to do so in some settings due to the unavailability of light, which limits their capacity to perform other behaviors for some portions during the day. In addition, a bird’s level of exertion may influence the sleep required on any particular night.

bird sleeping in the day

The length of time that birds naps vary depending on the sort of species you’re talking about. The duration of sleep a bird gets varies greatly. I believe no one has been able to understand exactly how much sleep a bird requires for healthy living.

To stay healthy and active, birds require around 10 to 12 hours of stable, uninterrupted sleep each night. It is commonly observed that birds go to sleep after sunset and are awake when the sun starts to rise. This would mean a sleep schedule that works around 7pm to 5am, give or take a few hours.

However, there is little confirmation on how long a bird sleeps at a given moment. There is research that shows that birds sleep significantly longer in the wintertime when the nights are longer.

Assisting Birds in Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

If your backyard birds or pet birds are not getting enough sleep, some responsibility lies on your shoulder to fix it. Instances like hawk or eagle attacks may be out of your control, but there are some things that you can do including:

  • Turn off any artificial lights in the yard.

  • Close your curtains to avoid the light going outside

  • Any music or television should be played at moderate volume.

  • Be sure to keep your feeders full so that the birds do not waste time finding it especially on colder nights.

  • The birdhouse should be elevated enough so that they are not in reach of cats

  • Try to keep your pet animals like cats and dogs indoors during late hours.

  • Provide multiple shelter opportunities where the birds can roost.

Carolina wren at night

Warning

Sleep deprivation can result in a bird’s death if it continues for several days. Make sure that you aren’t making their environment so disturbing that the bird ends up dead.

Where Does A Bird Sleep?

Birds do not retreat to their nests for slumber, contrary to popular belief.

Birds seek out secure, protected areas to spend the night. They frequently seek dense vegetation, tree holes, and crevices, or roost higher in trees, as well as other locations to avoid predators and to shelter from the climate. Birdhouses are used, particularly if food and supplies are nearby.

Finches and cardinals, for example, will sit high in trees and near tree trunks, which frequently retain the sun’s heat throughout the day. They may also sleep beneath protected structures like stables, rooftops, and balconies.

Aside from the typical ducks dozing off at the riverbanks and the occasional owl resting in the nearby trees, it’s rare to witness a bird napping because they won’t do it just out in the public and will instead seek out a secluded location. This is to mostly to protect themselves from

  • Extreme weather

  • Predators and risk of attack

bird perched post evening

The nest is also almost always at a hidden location to protect the young from attack. You must be wondering why they don’t choose their nests considering the time and effort that goes into making it.

The nests are generally in a desperate state requiring repairs after the young have fledged, coated in leftover food or feces, and might be contaminated with insects.

This is why the birds usually abandon their nests after the brood fly. Many do not even prefer using the same nest for another brood.

There are some exceptions to when you can find birds sleeping in their nests. 9/10 times this will be during the incubating and nesting season.

The parents tired of incubating and tending to the young may doze off for a while as a result of exhaustion. They also cannot fly off deserting their eggs or young.

big bird incubating eggs

Some birds might return to their old nesting places and birdhouses as a desperate measure. When the nights are cold, and they are struggling to find an alternative, they may retreat. This however will still depend on the condition their nesting abode is in.

Pro-Tip

If you want to aid the birds, especially on cold winter nights, clean out the birdhouses. They may return to the same spot if they find the space clean enough to rest in.

How Does A Bird Sleep?

Birds tuck away all exposed parts of its body, protecting them under its densely feathered wings.

Birds will sleep with their feet clutched on perches when standing or sitting. To defend themselves and stay warm, most birds perk up their wings and bury their feet and bills under the wings when sleeping; minimal heat energy is wasted in this manner.

The birds have a soft layer of features under their main flight features. All exposed body features like the legs and beaks are protected when the bird tucks them inside.

Not only do the feathers provide warmth but with the beak when tucked inside, serves as an added benefit. The warm air expelled from the bird’s nostrils will circulate heat internally.

a heron sleeping on a tree branch

Birds use the strength in numbers strategy in addition to sheltering in dense foliage, holes in trunks or rocky cliffs. Starlings and wagtails assemble in large evening roosts, flocking in thousands together at night.

This not only implies that there are more birds on the alert, but it also increases the odds of surviving if an assault occurs. For those frigid evenings, sleeping together also creates extra heat.

Does The Bird Fall Off While Perching?

You would think it would be hard for a bird to stand up and fall asleep, yet we witness this all the time.

This is because as the bird rests and gravity pulls its body mass downwards, the leg muscles tighten the ligaments in the foot sealing the toes like a clamp around whatever the platform is.

juvenile starling on ground

Sleeping Tricks

Birds plan their sleeping habits carefully to make sure that they can get through the night safely. They have a few tricks up their sleeves to alert them of attackers or shield them from the weather. Different birds have different ways to aid their sleep. Some of these include:

  • Many birds prefer to sleep in holes or gaps at night, which keeps enemies at bay. Birdhouses are examples of cavities that give protection from bad weather.

  • Some birds stand on water. In the event of danger, the splashing noises and tidal sensations of an attacker approaching them through the water serve as an immediate warning mechanism. The examples include herons and flamingos

swan sleeping on the grass

  • Some will float on the surface of the water when asleep, providing them with the same noisy alarm mechanism as wading birds. The examples include ducks and geese.

  • Many birds also frequently float in huge flocks when sleeping, offering them a numerical edge in the event a predator approaches. The examples include cardinals.

  • Small birds choose to stay close to high tree trunks that give them shelter, warmth, and vibrational warnings.

Unihemispheric Slow-wave Sleep (USWS)

geese sleeping on the grass

Birds sleep in tiny chunks until awakened by a predator, a companion, or extreme cold. Some birds can sleep with one eye open because part of their brain is awake and the other is sleeping. For this reason, it is known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep.

This enables the napping bird to swiftly awaken from its slumber if a threat lurks, while also being able to sleep comfortably when no threat exists. This is especially useful for birds like swifts and martins.

They remain fully alert during the summertime eating, raising fledglings, and are then off on their lengthy migratory journeys. USWS allows them to sleep for a few seconds at a time amidst their chaotic routines.

Did You Know?

Some birds like albatrosses can fall asleep while flying with just one eye open

Torpor

Another type of sleep done by the birds is called Torpor. Torpor, like hibernation, is a coping strategy that helps the birds survive. It is employed by birds like hummingbirds and dove to get through the colder months.

Torpor is the term used by scientists to describe this hibernation-like state. It occurs when an animal’s physiological processes are slowed to preserve energy and heat.

The bird’s pulse rate, respiration, and body temperature will all slow down.

bird after torpor state

When Do The Birds Wake Up?

As mentioned previously, diurnal birds that sleep at night will wake up around sunrise. While other birds that are called nocturnal will wake up at night to conduct their activities.

Daytime birds may also wake up if they are migrating, mating, cold, suspect predation or are disturbed by noise or light.

The diurnal birds wake up early because finding feed is the easiest early in the morning. It’s the time when all species wake up and start foraging for food. The earlier the bird wakes up, the easier it is for it to find food because of lesser competition.

Night-time birds like owls, on the other hand, reverse this pattern, spending the day sleeping and saving energy while hunting tiny rodents at night that are also nocturnal.

Keep Reading!

Although the ideal time to view and serve birds is during the day, but learning when different bird species go to sleep will add to your birdwatching experience.

Each bird species has its own preference of sleeping and waking up. This classifies them into two groups mainly; day birds and nighttime birds.

Some birds sleep at night, while others use the nighttime for hunting, migrating, and mating. So, in addition to putting out bird feeders for daytime food, make sure you provide some for your birds at night as well.

To further add to your knowledge, read this interesting post to find out how do hummingbirds sleep in particular.

Iñigo Navarro Picture

By Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Posted in:

Iñigo Navarro Picture

Iñigo Navarro

Bird Watching USA

My name is Inigo and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

Newsletter

Recommended:

You may also like:

Keep Learning!

Our latest tutorials, guides & bird watching tips straight to your inbox! You can unsubscribe at any time, but almost everybody stays. We must be doing something right!