Birds can be seen sleeping while perched on a branch, standing on one foot or clinging to bark. Some even sleep while flying.
Studies show that birds can let one side of their brains sleep while the other side remains awake. According to Helen James, Research Zoologist and Curator of birds, they may also restrict full rapid eye movement (REM) sleep to only a part of the brain at a time, allowing them to maintain a standing posture while grabbing those deep sleep. Birds also appear to have an extra balance-sensing organ between their hips, which could help them stay upright while sleeping. Taken together, these features make birds champion sleepers.
In case you 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.
A Bird’s Sleep Cycle
Unlike humans and most animals, birds don’t have the luxury of entering a deep slumber when they lay down at night. 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.
By staying partially alert, birds can hear the approach potential predators and have the opportunity to flee when something is wrong.
Most Birds Stand While They Sleep
This is especially true of wild birds that need to stay vigilant about what’s happening around them. Parrots enjoy sleeping while they’re upside down. Ducks and other waterfowl sleep while floating on the open water.
Why Do Birds Sleep Standing Up?
While it may look uncomfortable, most birds prefer being on their feet. The way their legs are shaped makes it difficult and 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. 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.