Select Page

With up to six times the number of birds in the world compared to humans, you probably see many birds all day. While you may see birds flying and singing throughout the day, they are less common at night. In this article, I look at where birds go at night.

Most birds are active during the day and sleep at night like other diurnal animals. Birds need sleep to keep their brains functioning and better performance in their daily activities. They need to find safe places to sleep during nighttime. Nocturnal birds, however, are active during the night and sleep during the daytime.

If you want to know where birds go at night, please read on.

Do you know why birds get tired?  Find out here in this article I wrote

Where do birds sleep at night?

Birds, like all other animals, have many predators. They can be an easy meal for predators while they are asleep. Birds have to choose a sleeping site that can keep them safe and where they sleep reflects this. Birds have several mechanisms which keep them aware and alert to their surroundings.

Birds frequently seek dense foliage, tree holes, and crevices or roost high in tree foliage and other areas where they are safe from bad weather and predators.

Smaller birds usually perch on the higher tree branches to remain safe from ground predators. Passerine birds sleep by clasping their feet to the tree branches. They have a firm grip on the branch because a tendon on the back of their leg remains firm when the leg is bent. This stronghold enables birds to sleep on branches without falling.

Birds remain alert during their sleep and usually sleep in smaller chunks. Birds can “switch off” one side of their brain while keeping the other side active and alert while asleep. This is known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USW).

Experts have found that each eye is connected to the opposite side of the brain. This allows them to rest the right side of the brain while keeping the left eye open, and vice versa. This adaptation gives birds an excellent defence system when they are sleeping.

Many people think that birds sleep in their nests. However, the nest is one of the only places where they do not sleep. Once the bird’s chicks have left the nest, it is commonly unsuitable for sleeping due to the accumulation of faeces, food, bugs, and other debris. After the hard work of nurturing and raising the fledglings, the nest is usually falling apart.

Some birds take advantage of empty birdhouses or roosting boxes, especially if food is nearby. Some of them may take refuge in our houses when they have an accessible entrance.

Wading birds like flamingos and herons can be seen sleeping while standing in the water or near the water. This allows them to be alert of predators as water splashes can be heard if a predator is approaching.

Some birds, including geese and ducks, sleep while floating on the water, giving them the same benefit as wading birds. You may have seen many birds roosting together in groups. They may sleep together, making them less vulnerable to predators due to their large numbers.

Swifts have the most interesting sleep mechanism. They fly almost all their life and sleep during their flight by “turning off one side of the brain.”

Do you know how to attract nesting birds to your garden?  Find out here

What time do birds go to bed?

As the sun sets, most diurnal birds begin to prepare for sleep. Birds commonly wake up as the sun rises the following day. Their body clock is set to the sun, and the times they sleep and wake up will depend on this.

Other birds, such as many owls, are nocturnal, and they become active when the sun goes down and perform their normal activities at night.

Did you know that some birds cache food for later?  Find out more in this article I wrote

Do birds sing at night?

You may have heard birds singing at night and questioned why? Some species will use the night for mating calls, while others make sounds to advertise their territory. At night, there is less noise, so their calls can be heard over a greater distance. Migratory birds cover large distances during nighttime, and they may also sing along while moving forward.

Some birds may wake up due to artificial lights from houses and buildings. They may get confused by lights thinking the day has already started. While some diurnal birds may wake up and start to sing during the night, Nightjars and Mockingbirds are known for their singing at night.

Do you know why birds lay different numbers of eggs?  Find out here

Do birds fly at night?

Most birds seen flying at night will be nocturnal birds as they perform their life activities at night. According to a study, in North America, around 30% of birds are nocturnal, whereas 70% are diurnal.

Nocturnal birds will fly to find food, hunt, and perform all other activities that diurnal birds do during the daytime.

Diurnal birds usually sleep at night and don’t fly frequently, but they may fly if required. Diurnal birds like thrushes or sparrows may fly at night during migration. They may also fly if they sense danger from a predator or are disturbed by artificial lights.

Where do nocturnal birds sleep during the day?

If nocturnal birds are active during the night, let’s discuss what they do during the daytime. Nocturnal birds spend most of their day sleeping.

Owls, nightjars, herons, some sea birds, and shorebirds are the most common nocturnal birds. Like the diurnal birds’ nocturnal birds also find safe places to close their eyes and rest.

For example, owls sleep in hollow trees, chimneys, abandoned buildings, and other dark and safe places. However, owls sleep near the nest during the breeding season. Similarly, Nightjars find densely vegetative hiding places.

There are 6 ways that birds navigate.  Find out what they are here