Feb 24, 2021 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2020

Ask Birdsquatch: How Do Birds Sleep?

Where do birds sleep? And if they sleep perched on branches, why don't they fall off?

Dear Birdsquatch:

My grandson informed me recently that bird nests are nurseries and not houses. If that's true, then where do birds sleep? I mean the birds that visit my bird feeders, not ducks or herons or roadrunners. And if your answer is that they perch in trees, then why don't they fall off when they sleep?


Dear Patty,

In general, birds sleep at night where they hang out during the day, so you're right: The birds that visit your bird feeders—which are primarily songbirds, also known as perching birds—sleep in trees. Cover is essential for both shelter and security, so when the leaves have fallen, evergreens of various types can be important lodging for songbirds. Birds that nest in natural cavities or nest boxes sleep on tree branches, too, or in natural cavities or nest boxes during the worst weather.

And why don't birds fall off their not-so-cozy branches when they sleep? Unlike humans and squatches, when songbirds squat or settle down low on a perch, the long tendon running down the leg to the toes tightens and shortens, automatically pulling the toes into a tight grip. When they are asleep, their feet naturally clench. Because of the roughness of the wood, friction holds them upright.

Planting trees, especially native trees, especially ones that hold on to their leaves all year long, and appreciating and saving big, old, trees (that are in a safe place) for as long as possible is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for birds.

About Birdsquatch

Birdsquatch is WBB's tall, hairy, and slightly stinky columnist. He is a bigfoot who has watched birds all his life. His home range is unknown.

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