When Do Birds Go to Sleep?

Most birds head to their nests to sleep as soon as the sun sets. The eyes of diurnal birds are very small, making it hard for them to see at night when there is less light for their eyes to take in.

Most humans retire to bed when the sun sets. Some of us go to sleep a bit earlier, some a bit later, but everyone goes to sleep and eventually wakes up.

Birds behave the same way. They all need sleep as we do, and they all have different sleeping patterns, different bedtimes, different places to sleep, and different reasons for when they go to sleep and when they wake up.

But that brings up the question:

When do birds go to sleep?

Diurnal Birds (Night Sleepers)

Most birds are diurnal. Diurnal, meaning “of or for the day,” is when something is awake during the day and sleeps at night. It is the opposite of nocturnal, when something is awake at night and sleeps during the day.

Most mammals and reptiles, including humans, are diurnal.

Diurnal birds sleep at night for a variety of reasons. One reason is that without sunlight, birds have trouble with vision.

The eyes of diurnal birds are much smaller than the eyes of nocturnal birds. Those smaller eyes make it harder for them to take in the light. During the day, this is no problem, but if there is less light to take in overall, as at night, then their small eyes cannot take in enough light to see.

Less light makes the birds’ vision less sharp, and if they can’t see around them, they may be caught by predators or fly into something and get injured.

This is a bigger danger when some predators, like cats, can see well at night because their eyes can take in more light. If the cat can see the bird, but the bird cannot see the cat, then the bird has a much smaller chance of escaping the cat.

Most Birds Are Diurnal

Birds are most commonly diurnal. Many birds have smaller eyes, so they cannot take in the needed light to allow them to see at night. Instead, they sleep at night when they cannot see and are active during the day.

Some diurnal birds are songbirds, crows, falcons, and jays. Most birds are diurnal and only break their sleeping patterns occasionally during migration.

If you are unsure if a particular bird species is diurnal, consider what time of day you typically see it. If it only appears around dusk, it may be nocturnal, but if you only see it around noon, then it is probably diurnal.

Another way to check would be to look at the bird’s eyes. Are they large with wide pupils like owls? Or small and dark, like a robin’s?

Diurnal Bird Sleeping Time

Most diurnal birds will find a place to sleep as soon as the sun begins to set, as they will not be able to find a place to sleep when the sun is fully set.

They then wake hours later, just after sunrise, when they sing as the sun rises. These birds start their activities for the day shortly after.

On a clock, diurnal birds go to bed around 7 PM and wake up around 5 AM. However, this does change by a few hours, depending on the season, location, and the habits of individual bird species. Migration can also change their sleep habits by a few hours.

This means that most birds sleep for around 10 hours a night. Birds will also take brief naps throughout the day, depending on how active they have been and what they need to do.

Nocturnal Birds

Nocturnal birds make up a small portion of the bird population. These birds have larger eyes that can take in more light, allowing them to see in the limited lighting of the night.

Unlike diurnal birds, nocturnal birds can see predators and prey in the dark, so they do not need to worry about being surprised or caught off-guard.

Hour-wise, nocturnal birds need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep. They wake up around dusk and return to their nests to sleep around dawn, almost the exact opposite of diurnal birds. These hours vary between different species and by location, just like it does for diurnal birds.

Some examples of nocturnal birds are the many owl species (barn, great horned, snowy, barred), nighthawks, and night-herons.

These birds all sleep during the day when others are awake and wake up as the sun sets. In the darkness of night, they hunt for mice, snakes, and frogs, care for their young, and build their nests.

Different Bird Species Have Different Sleep Habits

While most birds follow the same diurnal sleep schedule as most humans do, some outliers sleep during the day and wake up with the setting sun.

Regardless of whether these birds are nocturnal or diurnal, they all follow a regular sleep schedule that allows them to stay safe from predators and find food. They also require a lot of sleep to stay strong, like any other animal or human.

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