The Great Journey in Photography

Bird Sleep

Sleeping Flamingo

300mm f3.5 200iso 1/320sec

One thing that I wonder about from time to time is how do birds sleep and where and when do they sleep? Not really a burning question I have made it this for without  digging around for the answer but today is the day to start answering the questions.

Sleep is a very different experience for birds, they must at all times maintain vigilance for predators so sleeping generally occurs in very short bursts. There are even times when birds sleep with one eye open with enough brain functionality to detect predators. This is called Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS). There is even evidence suggesting that some birds are capable of sleeping during flight. More mundane routines of avian sleep usually involve going to a familiar safe place, nest, or common roosting area and sleeping by crouching but still standing using a wing to prop the head and if need be nestling into feathers. Seasons also have an effect on where birds sleep, obviously during breeding times they tend to sleep at the nest and at other times will be more inclined to seek out groups. For water birds a safe roosting area is usually standing in shallow water or on islands predators can’t approach. Ground birds like quail will hide out in dense vegetation and birds that nest in cavities tend to sleep in trees and  structures.

One of the remarkable things about USWS, call it sleeping with one eye open, birds employ is that there are some properties unique to birds. According to Niles Rattenborg behavioral neurophysiologist at Indiana State University, other animals like Dolphins and Seals have USWS but only birds are able to turn it on and off at will and have some control over the level of awareness.

Hey gang, hope you found today’s subject as interesting as I did. Until next time Happy Shooting.

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