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Where Do Ducks Sleep After Dark?

Nicole Cosgrove

You may know ducks as both land and water critters, leaving you wondering where they choose to sleep. But, of course, people think that these waterfowls would choose marshy places as the most peaceful and serene place to spend their nights.

But ducks are flexible when it comes to where they sleep and may change their roosting areas due to environmental changes. Environmental factors can affect their sleep quality, as where to roost dictates a duck’s sleep quality, so they choose it “wisely.”

Keep reading how these birds maintain their night rest and where they sleep.

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A Duck’s Sleeping Schedule

Ducks also end their day with a good rest at night, but they are not confined to full nighttime sleeping, which means they require daytime naps just like toddlers. Their sleeping patterns vary greatly depending on various factors, like the housing conditions and environmental changes.

For example, your duck may nap in the shallow ends of the pool frequently during summer when the sun warms the water. But, on the other hand, it may sleep through long and chilly nights tucked away in a shelter during the cold winter seasons.

These birds aren’t always sleeping at night as you do, as they are pretty much nocturnal. However, they stay active and move around a lot at night when it’s cold, and feed a lot during warm weather.

Most ducks take brief naps during the day and do so mostly on dry land. These naps may occur several times a day, and the birds consider them part of their grooming processes. For instance, ducks begin by foraging for food, bathe, preen their feathers, and finally take a nap on dry land.

Where Do Ducks Sleep?

Ducks are flexible and sleep in various places, depending on the breed. Some, like the Muscovy ducks, only roost on land, while others like the Mallard ducks can rest both above the ground and on water. However, the birds can alter their choices depending on seasons and the surrounding elements.

Wild waterfowls tend to tuck their heads under their wings when roosting through the night, floating on water or ice shelf. They do this to increase their security as they can easily detect intruders by quickly sensing their movements through the sounds and vibrations in the water.

However, domesticated ducks prefer tucking themselves on softly-textured straws and wood shavings on a coop’s floor. Don’t worry if you can’t provide nesting boxes for your duck, though, as these birds will be thrilled creating a nest for themselves in one of your coop’s corners.

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Duck Sleeping Habits

Ducks are prey birds and stay unprotected and prone to attacks when sleeping. While ducks may not be the brightest birds, these waterfowls developed unique sleeping habits that allow them to survive in the wild and adapt to the challenging environment.

For instance:

1. Sleeping with One Eye Open

Ducks tend to sleep in a group setting, going as far as lining themselves in a row. The birds holding each end of the row are expected to sleep lightly and stay alert for nearby movements. For this reason, they will leave one of their eyes open, allowing the whole group to have designated guards.

While those at the edges keep vigil, the ducks in the center get the chance to close both eyes when sleeping. This habit allows the birds to protect themselves under threatening situations and maintain a good night’s rest.


2. Half Parts of a Duck’s Brain Stays Active While Sleeping

Sleeping with one open eye makes the ducks leave half of their brains awake when sleeping, known as a single hemisphere. As a result, ducks can sleep with half of their brain at a time while the other half stays wary of potential predators.

Those on guard at the end of the line utilize this ability, as those in the middle take the time to sleep with both hemispheres of the brain.

However, this ability affects a duck’s sleep quality as the brain can’t fully rest, making them lack enough energy during the day. For this reason, the birds constantly rotate their position in the sleeping row to allow each other to get good sleep at night.


3. They Have Various Sleeping Postures

While some sleeping habits help protect ducks at night, some, such as standing on one leg when roosting on land, are meant to maintain the ducks’ health.

Ducks insulate themselves against heat loss during cold weather, thanks to their feathery bodies. However, the feathers only cover the top body parts leaving their legs bare and exposed to cold.

Standing on one leg helps reduce heat loss through the bare legs, inherently assisting ducks in regulating their body temperatures-an adaptation known as unipedal resting. Ducks are wise enough to switch between legs during this period to prevent harming their tissues due to standing for long.

Ducks can also nap in other interesting postures, including rotating their heads backward and resting them on the back, with the beaks tucked in the feathers on the back. This happens mainly to the ducks that appear pretty heavy.

Other ducks also pull their necks backward and rest their beaks on their chests instead. However, ducklings lack the muscle control to keep their heads up when sleeping. They typically rest with their heads flopped on the ground, which can be scary the first time you see it-they look dead!


4. Ducks Don’t Always Sleep at Night

Ducks are semi-nocturnal and stay active during nighttime. However, they don’t spend all their nights sleeping; instead, these nocturnal birds choose chit-chat, migrate, groom each other, and relocate, mainly when the weather is severe.

Young ducks do not sleep as much as older ducks because they are still energetic. However, they require more sleep as they grow older since aging wears ducks out.

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Summary

The choice of a duck’s sleeping place on the breed, but one standard characteristic that cuts across all duck breeds is that staying vigilant during resting times is crucial for survival.

These birds also select their roosting places based on the temperature, wind speed, sky conditions, and humidity.


Featured Image Credit: janko.knops, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.