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Do Birds Sleep With Their Eyes Open? What About One Eye?

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zebra finches sleeping

Having a pet bird can be a great experience for you and your family. Birds are excellent pets and are wiser than they get recognition for. It’s intriguing to observe their behavior both as pets and in the wild, discovering different quirky traits that birds have. For example, some people might learn about a bird’s sleeping habits.

Often, a sleeping bird will have both its eyes closed1. This is similar to many other animals. However, one unique trait birds have is that they sleep while standing up.

In this article, we will learn more about the sleeping behavior of birds and why they sometimes sleep with one eye open.

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How Do Birds Sleep?

When you bring a bird home, you’ll observe certain behaviors from day one. For instance, birds prefer sleeping with both eyes closed. Although they sleep standing up, you will notice they have a relaxed posture.

It’s typical of a sleeping bird to have a slower breathing pattern. Some even fluff their feathers or tuck their heads underneath their wings. In addition, some birds, like flamingos, pull one leg up closer to their bodies when they sleep.

Birds will go through different sleep cycles while they rest. During REM sleep, birds will be in a deep sleep with their eyeballs moving back and forth rapidly.

Unlike mammals, each sleep cycle for birds is short. The non-REM cycle lasts only 120 seconds. During REM, this phase only lasts 9 minutes before a shift occurs. This is why many bird owners notice their pets waking up and falling back asleep frequently throughout the night.

sleeping owl, grey owl
Image Credit: StockSnap, Pixabay

Can a Bird Sleep With One Eye Open?

Birds are quite unique creatures with different abilities. One of these abilities is being able to sleep with one eye open. The bird is half awake and can notice movement around it despite its resting posture.

This behavior of birds sleeping with one eye open is known as Unihemispheric Slow Wave Sleep (USWS). USWS allows birds to be aware of an approaching predator and move to a safer area.

Basically, when you observe this, your bird is half awake since they can control their level of sleep. So, when you see the eyes open only a bit, your bird isn’t fully alert.

When Do Birds Sleep With Both Eyes Closed?

Birds are light sleepers because they always have to be aware of approaching danger. That doesn’t mean you can’t find your bird with both eyes closed while they sleep—it usually happens under special circumstances when the bird feels that they can completely rest and let their guard down.

Birds, like any other animals, can get exhausted and want to sleep for long periods. Your bird will close both eyes during these times since it’s too tired and needs to rest. This is especially true if the bird has been taking part in tedious activities throughout the day.

However, there are times when birds sleep with both eyes closed because they’re ill. Always note any changes in their behavior. If they’re light sleepers and begin taking longer naps, you might need to see a vet to ensure they are in good health.

Do Birds Have Eyelids? What’s the Difference Between Bird and Human Eyelids?

dark-eyed junco perched
Image Credit: JackBulmer, Pixabay

Just like human beings and other mammals, birds have eyelids.

However, bird eyelids differ from ours because birds have three of them. Each bird you come across will have an upper eyelid, a lower eyelid, and a semi-transparent membrane.

Apart from the number of eyelids they have, birds also blink differently than we do. Human beings blink with the outer eyelid, but birds have the unique ability to blink with the semi-transparent membrane.

While the semi-transparent membrane is for blinking, it also protects the eye. For instance, birds can keep their eyes safe while diving or feeding their young.

Do Birds Lie Down When Fully Asleep?

Most birds love perching while sleeping, especially smaller species members, but some lie down when sleeping as well. There are even some species of parrots that will snuggle under leaves or other items when they want to sleep.

Still, it’s worth noting that, even standing up, your bird can enjoy relaxing while they sleep. During that time, birds get to rest both sides of the brain. The safest place for most birds to sleep is perching somewhere high where they’re safe from predators.

parrots singing
Image Credit: Schowoaze, Pixabay

Tips to Help Your Bird Get Ample Sleep

When you want your bird to rest and relax in your home, you can take extra measures to ensure this happens.

1. Keep Noise at a Minimum

Birds are light sleepers, and any little noise can wake them. One of the best ways to help your bird sleep better is to keep noise levels low. Turn off the TV or radio at night and shut off the lights. You can also cover the cage with a towel or cloth to reduce distractions that can keep them awake.

2. Provide Safe Shelter

Find a safe spot in your home to keep the bird’s cage. It’s better to keep the cage out of reach of other pets, like cats or small kids. A safe, undisturbed area in the house will ensure your bird doesn’t have to sleep with one eye open while looking out for danger.

birdhouse holes_Franz W._Pixabay
Image Credit: Franz W., Pixabay

3. Install a Perch

Observe your bird’s behavior when they want to sleep. Birds often love a perch that’s high enough so that they feel safe. Otherwise, they might get stressed since they don’t get ample REM sleep.

4. Let Them Sleep

It’s always tempting to want to keep playing with your bird. If you notice them sleeping, let them be. Ample sleep is vital for birds, so if they fall asleep on your shoulder, take them to the cage for some rest.

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Do Birds Need Darkness to Sleep?

Darkness and silence are important for your bird’s rest. However, birds can still sleep with the lights on and when there is a little bit of noise. Too much movement around the cage, however, might become a problem that keeps them awake.

Still, it’s important that you reduce the noise and turn off the lights at night. Also, you can lay a towel over the cage to stop your bird from observing any movement by other pets and people in the house.

A bird needs about 10 to 12 hours of darkness each night to go in and out of sleep cycles.

hummingbird divider In Conclusion

Birds love to sleep since it’s the best way for them to rest and relax. Often, a bird will close both eyes when they sleep and have a favorite sleeping position. However, there are instances when your bird can sleep with one eye open. During such times, your bird is half awake and will sense any movement around them.


Featured Image Credit: Tiluria, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.