Daytime is great for backyard bird watching. The birds are active, flying around, eating, and singing their little hearts out. Then as the sun goes down, the birds seem to disappear. But where do the birds go at night?
Most birds will try to find shelter to rest at night. Trees, bushes, cavities, and bird boxes offer safety and protection for birds. Some birds are nocturnal and will remain active at night. These birds will find food, mate, and even migrate.
Let’s look at the two types of birds you’ll find in your backyard
Diurnal vs. Nocturnal birds
Diurnal birds are active during the day. These are your usual backyard variety of birds, such as chickadees, Jays, Thrushes, bluebirds, etc.
And by now, you’ll have guessed that nocturnal birds are active at night. These are birds such as owls, whip poor wills, and mockingbirds.
So when you’re wondering where the bird goes at night, you’re thinking about the diurnal birds you see through the day.
So, where do the birds go at night?
Let’s explore that fully in this guide.
Where do birds go at night?
Daytime birds will hide away at night.
Hiding away means they can get some rest from their daytime activities. Finding shelter helps birds get some sleep, save energy and keep them as safe as possible.
Staying still in one place for an extended period puts birds at risk from animals such as cats or owls.
If they stayed in the same areas you see them in the daytime, they would be too exposed to these predators.
Without a safe place, a resting bird would be vulnerable to predators.
I recommend watching your backyard birds at dawn and seeing where they head to. You’ll likely see them disappearing into nearby trees and shrubs.
Where do birds sleep at night?
Contrary to popular belief, birds don’t sleep in nests at night.
They look for a safe place that keeps them well hidden.
Birds will sleep in a place with height and coverage to keep the predators away. A secluded spot in thick tree branches or bushes away is perfect for this. Cavities, holes in trees, and birdhouses are other places birds will sleep. These spaces keep the birds safe and warm during the night.
A birdhouse might be an ideal cavity during the breeding season, but mainly for the shelter, not the nest. Having a birdhouse available for birds will really help them out. Especially in the cold, wet, windy months
Some species of birds, like bluebirds, will huddle together in a flock to make sure they have safety in numbers.
Wherever a bird chooses to rest is known as a ‘roosting’ area.
And note that I say rest and not sleep.
Well, birds don’t have long periods of sleep at night like you do.
Birds take lots of short naps throughout the day to get some shut-eye.
But the most exciting part of it?
Birds are never fully asleep. They only shut off half of their brain to rest.
This is unihemispheric slow-wave sleep. The cool part is that it allows birds to rest and stay alert to dangers.
Pretty cool, huh?
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What do birds do at night?
I know you’re thinking to yourself, ‘well, if birds don’t sleep at night, what are they doing?’
And that’s a great question.
One of the main challenges for a resting bird is keeping it warm.
Feathers are excellent at insulating birds. A resting bird would usually be seen tucking itself up inside their feathers.
Sharing roosting spots with other birds is a great way to keep each other warm during the night.
It’s thought that some young birds will practice learning their species’ calls and songs in their sleep.
If you see diurnal birds active at night, they’re more than likely migrating. Birds will typically migrate at night as night conditions make it easier to navigate.
Why are the birds singing at night?
If birds are supposed to be resting, why are you hearing them signing at night?
And your right!
Daytime birds usually won’t sing or do bird calls at night.
However, that doesn’t mean you won’t ever hear them during the night. There is usually a variety of different reasons for this.
Check out my article on why birds chirp at night to learn more.
Where do winter birds go at night?
It can be easy to worry about the well-being of your backyard birds in the winter.
Those freezing cold nights are sure to impact tiny little birds.
But don’t fret.
Your backyard birds are well adapted to the blistering cold.
One of the most innovative ways they do this is through their body temperature. A bird’s body temperature can be around 105 degrees. Their blood keeps them nice and toasty when the winter freeze takes over.
Winter birds are also known to grow more feathers to make them extra coy over the cold months. This also makes it easier for them to maintain those high body temperatures.
Winter birds are also known to try and find as much food as possible during the day. Eating will keep them warm and their energy levels high overnight.
Plus, they continue to adopt all those little tricks they do to keep them safe on any other night:
- Tucking up their wings
- Finishing a sheltered cavity or foliage
- Sleeping in flocks
How to help birds at night?
The best way to help your backyard birds at night is to help them with areas to roost.
This usually means providing them with foliage and bushes as a safe place to rest. You can do this by planting in your yard or keeping existing evergreen trees, shrubs and bushes.
You can also put up some birdhouses or roosting pockets (like these ones) for your backyard birds. This will provide a safe and warm area for birds to rest overnight.
Providing food in the winter months is a great way to ensure your backyard bird has the energy to keep warm at night.
Try not to prune back dead leaves and vegetation in your yard, and this may help provide some shelter for birds in bad weather conditions.
Birds at night FAQ
When do birds sleep?
Don’t think of birds like humans; they don’t go for an 8-hour sleep overnight.
Instead, they have short nap bursts throughout the day.
You’ll find that most birds will go to ‘roost’ or rest for the night once the sun goes down.
This is because birds are sensitive to light, and the sun is their primary source.
But that also means artificial light such as street lights can disorientate birds from their sleep.
How do birds sleep at night?
When birds are on branches, their feet will automatically clutch around to provide stability.
They will crouch into their feathers to keep the heat in their body.
If a bird is on a branch, it will lower its feather over its legs.
If the bird is in a cavity, it will pull its leg up into its feathers to keep them warm.
Where do Robins go at night?
Robins like to rest in thick coniferous trees.
During migration, you may find a flock of robins roosting together. Robins will teach their young how to do this to adapt to resting with a community when they migrate.
Where do cardinals go at night?
Cardinals like to roost in dense, evergreen shrubs and trees.
Cardinals like to roost in flocks with other cardinals. You won’t find them in a bird box or a roosting nest in your yard.
Where do chickadees go at night?
Chickadees like to roost alone. Naturally, you find them in a hollow of a tree.
However, if you have a bird box or a roosting pocket available, they usually make good use of these.
Where do pigeons go at night?
Pigeons generally like a roofed area with a wide ledge to roost on.
That’s why you often find them on the beams and ledges of buildings.
Where do sparrows go at night?
Sparrows are ones to disappear as night falls. You’ll find them tucked away in dense bush, shrubs, or even small cavities.
Out with breeding season sparrows a communal rooster, you’ll find many of them resting together.
Where do starlings go at night?
Starlings are to ultimate flock bird, so it’s no surprise that they will roost together.
What’s more, they are super adapted to roosting pretty much anywhere. They’ve adapted so well as an invasive species to the USA.
Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of where birds go at night.
Now you know they are trying to find shelter to rest, keep safe and warm.
Your bird will do this in a favorite place like a tree or cavity.
Knowing this means you can help them out by ensuring these spaces are available for them to use in your yard.
Putting up a birdhouse or extra food out in winter can help your backyard bird survive the night.
Let me know what you do to help your backyard birds roost safely during the night in the comments below.