Where Do Owls Sleep?

Have you ever wondered where these mysterious birds of prey rest their heads for the night? Where do owls sleep, you ask?

Let’s explore the fascinating world of owl habitats, from the dense foliage of the forest to the cozy nooks of a barn. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or just curious about these impressive creatures, this post will give you a glimpse into their unique sleeping habits.

Get ready to hoot with excitement as we uncover the secrets of where and how owls like to catch some Z’s.

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Three Types of Owls

To answer to the question of where owls sleep depends on the type of owl.

There are three different types of owls: nocturnal, diurnal, and crepuscular.

Nocturnal owls are the most common and sleep during the day in trees or other elevated spots, often hiding in dense foliage.

Diurnal owls, also known as daytime owls, are active during the day and sleep at night in secluded spots.

Finally, crepuscular owls are most active at dawn and dusk, so they sleep during the day and night.

Statistics point to about 69% nocturnal species of owls, 3% are diurnal, about 22% are crepuscular, and a small percentage, about 6% are not known.

Interesting fact: Nocturnal owls have dark eyes, diurnal owls have yellow eyes, and crepuscular owls have orange eyes.

Where and How do Nocturnal Owls Sleep?

owl sleeping during the day

Where and How They Sleep

Nocturnal owls can choose to sleep in a variety of locations. Some species like the Elf Owl and Western Screech Owl prefer to sleep in tree cavities, while others like the Burrowing Owl prefer to sleep in burrows or underground dens.

Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls are known to take up residence in abandoned buildings or man-made structures. While sleeping, owls often tuck their beaks into their feathers and lower their heads onto their chests.

A Little Sleep Goes A Long Way

Much like humans can function on a few hours of sleep, most owls also require very little sleep to function well during the night. Owls are known to sleep throughout the day in several short naps, some as short as a few minutes long.

The amount of sleep each owl needs varies depending on their size and species.

Nocturnal Camouflage

Nocturnal owls are experts in camouflage, which is particularly useful when sleeping. Owls often choose to sleep with their wings and tails covering their entire body, resembling a heap of leaves or tree bark.

This helps protect them from predators and also helps them blend into their surroundings.

Minimal Movement 

During sleep, owls are known to remain in the same position for hours at a time, without moving. This can help them conserve energy and avoid being detected by predators.

If awoken suddenly, an owl may snap out of its sleep and quickly take flight or vocalize. But, once things have settled down, they quickly return to their peaceful sleeping state.

As we’ve discovered, the sleeping habits of these nocturnal owls are truly fascinating. They have adapted to life in the dark in many ways, including their sleeping patterns, location, and habits.

Habits of Some Specific Species of Nocturnal Owls:

The Great Horned Owl, one of the most common owl species in the U.S., typically roosts in a tall tree during the day and is most commonly found in wooded areas.

These birds are known to have a variety of habitats, including the Arctic tundra, mangrove swamps, and desert canyons. They are known to be highly adaptable, and can be seen nesting in man-made structures such as chimneys and buildings.

At night, Great Horned Owls prefer to stay perched on a high branch where they can watch for prey, sometimes roosting near the top of a tree.

Eastern Screech-Owls prefer to roost in tree cavities during the day and can be found in wooded areas and suburban parks. They are one of the smallest owl species in the U.S. and are often overlooked due to their small size and excellent camouflage.

At night, these owls will also perch on a high branch where they can watch for prey. They have been known to use birdhouses as roosting sites and can be attracted to your backyard with a properly mounted nest box.

The Barn Owl typically nests in haylofts, barns, and other agricultural structures. They can be found in suburban and urban areas, but mainly thrive in rural parts of the country.

To stay hidden during the day, they roost in dark crevices or cavities. At night, they will hunt from the air and are known to be excellent hunters.

Like the Great Horned Owl and Eastern Screech-Owl, the Barn Owl prefers to roost high up in a tree or on a high perch during the night.

The Northern Saw-whet Owl is another small owl species found in the U.S. These birds are mostly found in the northern regions of the country, and prefer to roost inside dense evergreen or deciduous trees during the day, often using natural crevices or old woodpecker holes.

They are known to be very secretive and only come out during the night to hunt. Northern Saw-whet Owls are seldom seen for this reason.

The Long-eared Owl is known for its tufted ears, which are feathers used for communication and expression. These birds prefer to roost in dense foliage during the day, often near open areas such as meadows and fields.

They are found in various habitats throughout the U.S., but are most commonly seen in the western parts of the country.

When searching for food, Long-eared Owls typically hunt and forage over grasslands in their search for small animals.

Owl species that are predominantly nocturnal:

  • Barn Owl
  • Boreal Owl
  • Eastern Screech Owl
  • Elf Owl
  • Flammulated Owl
  • Great Horned Owl
  • Long-Eared Owl
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl
  • Spotted Owl
  • Western Screech Owl
  • Whiskered Screech Owl

Where and How do Diurnal Owls Sleep?

There are two species of diurnal owls in the United States that actively hunt during the day. And just like their nocturnal cousins, diurnal owls have fascinating sleeping habits.

Let’s start with the northern hawk owl, a beautiful bird of prey that resides in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada. Unlike other owls that roost on trees or inside hollows, northern hawk owls prefer to nap on the branches of conifers. They typically choose trees that offer good visibility and protection from harsh weather.

During the breeding season, male hawk owls will find a suitable roosting spot near the female’s nest and keep watch over their family.

Hawk owls are able to detect their prey up to half a mile away with their awesome eyesight.

On the other hand, the northern pygmy owl is a tiny owl that lives in the western United States, particularly in dense conifer forests. During the day, they perch on high branches or snags and scan their surroundings for prey.

When it’s time to rest, they usually choose a concealed spot inside a dense tree. They may even create their own roosting hole by enlarging a woodpecker cavity.

Where and how diurnal owls sleep can also depend on the season. During winter, when daylight hours are limited, they may choose warmer and more sheltered roosting spots.

Northern hawk owls, for instance, have been observed sleeping in birdhouses, haystacks, or even abandoned vehicles. In contrast, during the breeding season, when food is plentiful, diurnal owls may roost close to their nests to defend their territories or protect their chicks.

Owl species that are predominantly diurnal:

  • Northern Hawk Owl
  • Northern Pygmy Owl

Where and How do Crepuscular Owls Sleep?

snow owl sleeping

The majority of owls are nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. However, there are a few owl species that are classified as crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the hours of dawn and dusk.

Snowy owls, great grey owls, and barred owls are examples of predominantly crepuscular owl species found in the U.S.

During the day, crepuscular owls often retreat to rest and sleep in concealed roosts. These roosts can vary from tall grasses, tree branches, and even human-made structures such as abandoned buildings and power poles.

They choose these locations for their concealed nature and to avoid predators such as hawks, eagles, and foxes.

One of the most fascinating aspects of crepuscular owl sleep behavior is their tendency to nap in broad daylight. They typically do this to conserve energy and rest before their next day of hunting at dawn or dusk.

These daytime naps can occur on tree branches or other elevated surfaces close to their hunting grounds.

Crepuscular owls also have a unique sleep pattern. They will often go through bouts of restlessness during the night, sleep for short periods, and then have short periods of activity. This pattern is due to the timing of their biological rhythms in relation to dusk and dawn.

These birds will often take turns resting and keeping watch over their shared roost, working together to ensure their safety while they sleep.

Specific Sleeping Habits of selected crepuscular owls

The snowy owl, a majestic bird known for its beautiful white feathers, is primarily found in the Arctic region of North America.

Like many crepuscular owls, snowy owls are active during the hours of dawn and dusk, but they typically sleep during the day. When they do sleep, they tend to find a flat surface, such as a snow drift or rock, to rest on.

They also use their feathers to keep warm and protect their eyes from the bright sunlight.

It’s important to note that snowy owls may also migrate to different areas during different times of the year, so their sleeping habits may vary depending on their location.

Moving onto the barred owl, a common owl species found in forests throughout the eastern United States. Barred owls tend to sleep in tree cavities during the day and become active during the evening and early morning.

They also use their feathers to stay warm and camouflage from potential predators. In the winter months, they may roost in groups to conserve heat.

Barred owls are also known for their unique hooting sounds, “who cooks for you?” which may serve as a form of communication with other owls during the nighttime hours.

Finally, let’s talk about the great gray owl, a large and elusive species found in the northern hemisphere. Great gray owls are active during the hours of dawn and dusk but typically sleep during the day as well.

They tend to roost in dense forests, choosing complex tree structures to sleep on. They will use their feathers as insulation during cold weather, and their large round eyes help them see in low light conditions.

Due to their rarity and nocturnal nature, witnessing a great gray owl in the wild sleeping can be quite a treat for bird enthusiasts.

Owl species that are day and/or night (crepuscular):

  • Barred Owl
  • Burrowing Owl
  • Great Gray Owl
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Snowy Owl

How About Baby Owls? How and Where do they Sleep?

baby owls - how do they sleep?

Have you ever wondered how baby owls sleep? It turns out that they have a unique way of catching some shut-eye.

Contrary to what you might think, baby owls don’t sleep while perched on a branch as the adult owls do – that would be too risky! Instead, they lie down on their bellies, with their face and beak resting on the ground.

This is because their heads are too heavy to be held up while they sleep, and they could easily fall off their perch if they tried to sleep standing up. It’s fascinating how nature has adapted to ensure the survival of these majestic birds.

Conclusion: Where Do Owls Sleep?

All in all, the sleeping habits of owls depend on the species as well as their environment. So next time you spot an owl out during the day, remember that they may not necessarily be a nocturnal species!

Similarly, if you’re out in the early morning and see one flying around, it could be a crepuscular species. Owls have adapted to their environment and each possess unique characteristics that make them fascinating creatures to observe!

Regardless of when you encounter one, consider yourself lucky—they will no doubt bring some excitement and wonderment into your life!