Where Do Birds Sleep?

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As I delve into the magical world of birdwatching, certain questions have popped up in my mind! One of those burning questions is: Where do birds sleep at night?

A common misconception is that birds sleep in nests. In actuality, birds sleep in unoccupied birdhouses, on tree branches, in dense shrubs, in gutters and chimneys, and in places where they feel safe from predators and the elements. Nests are not suitable because they are often worn through from use by their offspring. The nests may also be overrun with mites and coated in a variety of leftover debris such as food particles and fecal matter from their young.

An important factor in determining where birds sleep at night is their species. Smaller birds tend to prefer tall trees and high branches which affords them safety from predators on the ground. Larger birds that cannot land on tree branches such as grouse and pheasants look for dense shrubbery to sleep in. Waterfowl often sleep on the water, or opt for small islands as roosting locations. Lastly, passerines or birds such as cardinal and blue jays, tend to sleep in flocks to share body heat.

Weather and the changing seasons may also play a factor in where birds to choose to sleep. During breeding season, a bird that may typically sleep with a community of birds will opt instead to sleep in their territory or with their nest. Birds that sleep in cavities, such as woodpeckers, will typically choose a new cavity after breeding season. During especially harsh weather conditions, birds will seek out a safe and concealed location to protect themselves from the elements.

Sleeping can be hazardous for your feathered friends so here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’d like to make your backyard a suitable sleeping haven:

  • Set up roosting boxes in safe zones that are protected from the elements and predators
  • Clean out old birdhouses
  • Turn off any outdoor lighting that could disrupt a bird’s natural sleeping pattern
  • Keep your bird feeders filled with high energy foods such as sunflower seeds, suet, and nyer seeds to help your winged guests sustain themselves during adverse weather conditions

Knowing where birds sleep is yet another fascinating aspect of birding and it’s wonderful that we can do our part to ensure that our beautiful friends can sleep comfortably.

Happy Birding!


Image by karolinda from Pixabay