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How Do Owls Sleep & Where Do They Sleep?

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sleeping owl

Most people know that owls are nocturnal, sleeping during the day and waking at night. There’s a lot more to owl sleep cycles, however.

So, where do owls sleep and how do they sleep? Owls typically sleep facing forward, but may sleep with their heads backward in the cavities of trees, cliff ledges, or deserted buildings. Baby owls (owlets) are unable to hold up their heavy heads, so they sleep on their sides or face down.

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Owls Are Nocturnal

Owls are nocturnal, meaning they’re active during night hours. Many other animals are active at night, such as hedgehogs, moles, rabbits, raccoons, bats, spiders, frogs, lizards, and turtles. Once it’s dark, owls can hunt other nocturnal animals like reptiles, rodents, and amphibians.

For nesting, owls prefer dark places free from human or predator activity. Most species sleep in tree cavities, but owls make nests in a variety of ways. Some use squirrel or hawk nests, while others nest in the ground.

eastern screech owl sitting in a tree
Image Credit: MiniMe-70, Pixabay

Where Do Owls Sleep?

Owls are solitary creatures, unlike many birds. Most owls sleep alone and do all foraging and hunting activities alone, though some species will sleep in groups to survive harsh winters. During the breeding season, owls sleep alone near the nest.

The rest of the time, owls sleep in hollow trees, deserted buildings, chimneys, and other dark, enclosed, and safe places. Most owls don’t sleep in their own nest – instead, they prefer to stay near it. Owls will also steal other animals’ nests, such as eagles, falcons, and hawks. Owl nests are called “roosts.”

How Do Owls Sleep?

Owls sleep during the day and similarly to other birds. They sleep with their head forward, standing on their legs and gripping the branch of a tree or the edges of a cavity.

On average, owls will sleep about 12 hours during the day. Most owls sleep during this period, but a few species do sleep at night.

Sometimes, an owl will hunt during the day, though this is usually to get more food or find scarce food. Most of the owl’s prey animals are also nocturnal, such as reptiles and rodents. Owls have incredible night vision and hearing, which allows them to hunt with stealth and capture quick and elusive nocturnal animals.

white owl sleeping eyes closed
Image Credit: zoosnow, Pixabay

Baby Owls Sleep Like Baby Humans

Owlets sleep lying down, much like humans. As babies, owls are blind, so they can’t focus on bright light as well as an adult. Their sleep and wake cycles are based on the noises around them or the vibrations they feel in the ground.

Once owlets mature, they will sleep with their heads up like adult owls.


Most owls are nocturnal and exhibit different sleeping patterns compared to other birds. Owls will typically roost in hollows of trees, cliff ledges, abandoned buildings, and chimneys, where they can enjoy darkness, quiet, and safety from predators. Owlets sleep a lot like human babies – on their sides or facedown – but once they mature, they sleep standing up like their adult counterparts.

Featured Image Credit: StockSnap, 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.