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​The Mystery of How Birds Sleep

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           Birds sleep in their nests, right? The answer to this question might surprise you. Nests are actually not used for sleeping in the bird world. Nests, for the birds that make them, are just used for housing eggs and chicks. Once these chicks leave the nest, birds don’t typically return. When nesting season is over, nests will often be covered in dirt, droppings, and feathers from the fledglings. This ends up attracting all sorts of parasites and predators, and that's not somewhere that birds want to be.

           Now you might be wondering, if birds don’t sleep in their nests, then where do they end up sleeping? The big answer is, away from predators. Depending on the type of bird, they may sleep in different places and in different ways.

           Songbirds, need to keep off the ground to avoid cats and other vicious ground predators. However, they also must keep out of open spaces to avoid owls, which are nocturnal and search for food at night. These birds are often looking for dense foliage or brush to take cover in overnight, to avoid dangerous situations. This foliage acts as a camouflage and a safe haven for the birds, and keeps them safe and secure.

          Perching birds, also called Passerines, sleep while perched. Over time, these birds have developed a form of flexor tendons in their legs that involuntarily clasp shut when a bird is squatting on a perch. The tendons will stay in this position until the bird decides to straighten its leg and it physically won’t be able to leave until it’s ready and willing to. Some say, that the grip is so tight that some birds have even been seen sleeping upside down. That certainly sounds like a deep sleeping bird to me!

          Birds also prioritize staying warm while roosting. Many bird species, most notoriously hummingbirds, enter a state of torpor, in which no activity is involved, while sleeping. This lowers their body temperature and conserves energy so they can survive the colder temperatures during the night. Many birds will also gather into large flocks in order to share body heat as they sleep. They may huddle together in cavities under roofs, bridges, ledges, or barns using the group to provide warmth.

          

          Daytime may be the best time to see and feed the birds, but having an understanding of what birds need to survive in all aspects of their life can give everyone ideas on how we can help birds any way we can. Next time, make sure that along with putting out bird feeders for daytime nourishment, you’re also supplying some sort of shelter for the birds, so they can have some nighttime relaxation.

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