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Home > Birds > Do Birds Sleep Standing Up? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

Do Birds Sleep Standing Up? Vet-Approved Facts & FAQ

bird sleeping standing up on a tree branch

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Do you toss and turn a lot at night? Does your dog or cat twitch when they’re dreaming? While you may feel these types of behaviors are odd when it comes to sleeping, these quirks have nothing on birds. The sleeping habits of birds have fascinated people for ages. Are they still awake? Do all birds sleep standing up? If you’ve asked yourself these types of questions about your pet birds, or birds who visit the area around your home, we have a few answers for you. While some bird species sleep in different ways, yes, most birds sleep while standing up. Let’s see how birds catch a bit of shut-eye.


A Bird’s Sleep Cycle

Normally, humans and animals prefer to enter a deep slumber when they lay down at night. Birds don’t have this luxury. Birds are constantly on alert. Instead of drifting off into a deep sleep, they enter a unique hemispheric slow-wave sleep. This keeps them aware of potential dangers around them while they rest.

Learning that birds don’t enter into a deep slumber at night, or during the day for nocturnal birds, may be a bit concerning to you, but there are reasons behind it. Several of the predators lurking in the darkness would love to make a meal out of a bird. By staying partially alert, birds can hear the approach of these types of animals and have the opportunity to flee when something is wrong.

an owl sleeping on a tree branch
Image By: vinsky2002, Pixabay

Do Birds Stand While They Sleep?

While there are a few species of birds that sleep in different ways, yes, most birds sleep while standing up. This is especially true of wild birds that need to stay vigilant about what’s happening around them. This isn’t the only sleeping position they make use of, however. Some species of birds, like the parrot, enjoy sleeping while they’re upside down. Ducks and other waterfowl sleep while floating on the open water. Either way you look at it, birds have some of the strangest sleeping habits around.

Why Do Birds Sleep Standing Up?

There are a couple of reasons birds may prefer to stand while they sleep. One of the most important is comfort. While it may not look it to you, most birds prefer being on their feet. The way their legs are shaped makes it difficult, and most likely more uncomfortable, for a bird to tuck into a nesting position when they rest. To avoid any discomfort, they will stand up and leave their legs stretched out.

Another reason birds sleep standing up is reaction time. Any animal is more vulnerable while they sleep. Yes, birds avoid a deep sleep, but that doesn’t mean every potential predator knows this. By being on their feet while they doze, birds can move quickly if they hear danger approaching. With one quick burst, a bird can be airborne after being asleep only seconds before.

sleeping cockatiel birds
Image By: Thomas B., Pixabay

How Do They Avoid Falling?

Most birds have great balance. The way they soar through the air and dive bomb prey is truly something to see. The same can be said about the way they sleep. Did you know some birds stand on one foot while they sleep? Flamingos are most famous for this, but other species do it as well. While it can’t be proven, most people feel this isn’t to aid their amazing balance. While birds stand on their oddly shaped, thin legs a bit of wobbling can occur. When on one leg, it appears as though birds are better able to control those wobbles and avoid falling.

What About Their Nests?

Yes, birds have nests, but they don’t sleep there. Nests are normally only used for eggs and fledglings. When a mother bird needs to keep her eggs or offspring safe, you may find them curled up in the nest. Sleeping in the nest doesn’t change much though. Birds in nests enter slow-wave sleep as well to avoid predators who may want to raid their nests and harm their babies.

Can Birds Sleep During the Day?

While most diurnal birds spend their day migrating or hunting for food, occasionally they will get in a good nap. When a bird sleeps, you’ll notice they tuck their heads under their wings or nestle it under their back feathers. During the day, this helps them avoid issues with the sun considering they are never in a deep sleep.

It’s also important to remember that some species of birds are nocturnal. This means they sleep during the day and hunt at night. The owl, for instance, tucks away for sleep while the sun is still shining. This is why they are known to frequent darker areas that allow them to avoid unwanted sunshine when they are trying to sleep.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, birds sleep in wild ways. Whether it’s standing up, floating around, or on one leg, they are always vigilant of the world around them. The next time you look at a bird and wonder if they’re uncomfortable or in danger of falling while they doze, have no fear. With their great balance and agility, our feathered friends are comfortable and content as they sleep standing up.

Featured Image Credit: Martin Pelanek, Shutterstock

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