Owls are fascinating creatures known for their nocturnal habits and unique sleeping patterns. This article delves into their sleeping habits, how they differ from other birds, and where they sleep.

As nocturnal animals, owls typically sleep during the day and are active at night. They have various sleeping positions, depending on their age and species, and sleep in a range of places, such as tree branches, hollow trees, and empty buildings. Let’s explore the intriguing world of owls and their sleeping habits in more detail.

Introduction: Fascinating Facts About Owls

Owls are amazing creatures, known for their keen night vision, incredible hearing, and stealthy hunting abilities. With around 250 species of owls found worldwide, these birds have captivated humans for centuries. Though they were once considered symbols of evil spirits, owls are now regarded as emblems of wisdom.

gray owl perching on wooden branch during daytime

Unique Sleeping Patterns of Owls

Owls have distinct sleeping patterns that vary from other birds. While adult owls generally sleep with their head facing forward, baby owls are known to sleep face down due to the weight of their large heads. As they grow and gain strength, owlets develop the ability to sleep with their heads facing forward like other birds.

Owls need an average of 12 hours of sleep per day, similar to other birds. However, unlike other birds, they sleep during the day because they are active at night. Some species of owls are diurnal or crepuscular, meaning they are active during the day or at dusk and dawn, but most are nocturnal.

Owls and Their Nocturnal Nature

Owls are known for their nocturnal nature, which means they are active at night and sleep during the day. They have evolved with exceptional night vision and hearing, allowing them to hunt their prey stealthily. Some owl species, such as the northern hawk owl and the northern pygmy owl, are diurnal and active during the day. However, the majority of owls are nocturnal, with 69% being nocturnal, 22% crepuscular, and only 3% diurnal.


Where Do Owls Sleep?

Owls sleep in various locations, depending on the species and their habitat. Some common sleeping spots for owls include:

  • Tree branches
  • Hollow trees
  • Chimneys
  • Empty buildings
  • Fissures
  • Cliff ledges

Owls rarely sleep in their nests, but they may sleep close to the nest during the breeding season. They are excellent predators but poor nest builders, often preying on the nests of other birds, such as hawks and eagles.

The Sleeping Positions of Owls

Owls have different sleeping positions depending on their age and species. Adult owls typically sleep with their head facing forward, standing on one or both legs. Baby owls, on the other hand, sleep face down or on their belly due to the weight of their large heads. As they grow and gain strength, they develop the ability to sleep in a more upright position.

Some owls may sleep lying down, while others sleep standing with their eyes closed. They have a tight grip on the branch or perch they are standing on, with two toes facing forward and one bent backward. This locked position ensures they remain secure while they sleep.

selective focus photo of owl

Is it true that all owls are nocturnal?

The ubiquitous term “Night Owl” fosters many misconceptions about owls. For example, most people believe that when the moon shines, all owls become active. That, however, is not the case.

Based on their sleeping habits, owls are classified into three types:

  • Nocturnal owls
  • Crepuscular owls 
  • Diurnal owls

The most well-known are nocturnal owls. They are the ones who are most active at night. They hunt and go about their regular lives at night. During the day, you can find them sleeping on a limb or roosting somewhere.

Diurnal owls are the inverse. They are the most active owls during the day. However, like other animals, they sleep and replenish their energy at night.

Crepuscular owls spend most of their time awake between twilight and morning. However, they hunt both during the day and at night.

While most owls remain nocturnal, two species are genuinely diurnal.

Northern hawk owls

Northern hawk owls

Northern hawk owls can be found in North America and Asia far north. They have similar hunting skills as hawks and falcons. They are tenacious hunters sitting high in the branches, waiting for food. They may also hunt in the winter, hunting animals buried beneath the snow. They can even catch prey in mid-air if necessary.

Northern pygmy owls

Northern pygmy owls

These are more common on the west coast of North America. Most are visible throughout the day, mainly when the sky is cloudy. They can bob their heads at the very tops of trees and swing their tails. They, too, have hunting abilities similar to hawks and falcons. However, they can put up a fight with northern hawk owls.

Crepuscular owls include the following species:

  • Short-eared owls
  • Snowy owls
  • Great horned owls
  • Great grey owls
  • Burrowing owls

According to a study, 69 percent of owls are nocturnal, 22 percent are crepuscular, and only 3 percent are diurnal. Despite this fact, owls are still classified as nocturnal animals.

What is the difference between diurnal, nocturnal, and crepuscular owls?

There is one guaranteed way to determine if an owl is diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular. All you have to do is look at its eyes.

Dark eyes

Owls with dark eyes are nocturnal. They love to hunt at night and can capture their prey in absolute darkness. Their eyes do not help them see their prey; instead, they camouflage them in the dark.

white and brown barn owl on yellow petaled flower field

Spotting an owl with dark eyes during the day is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that should be savored.

Dark-eyed owls include the following:

  • Northern spotted owls
  • Barred owls
  • Barn owls

Orange eyes

Crepuscular owls have orange eyes. The twilight owls are what they’re called. They prefer to find their prey in the early morning light.

Orange-eyed species include:

  • Great horned owls
  • Eurasian eagle-owls

Yellow eyes

Look for yellow eyes if you’re looking for owls during the day. They love to hunt while the sun is shining. They have a superb vision but depend on their hearing to find their prey beneath the snow. As a result, they are among the hardiest owl species.

brown and white owl in close up photography

Some owl species include:

  • Great grey owls
  • Snowy owls
  • Burrowing owls

Owl Sleeping Habits: An Intriguing Aspect of Their Nature

Owls’ sleeping habits are a captivating part of their overall nature. From their unique sleeping positions to their choice of sleeping spots, these nocturnal creatures have adapted to their environment in remarkable ways. As we continue to study owls, we gain a deeper understanding of their lives and the fascinating ways they navigate the world.