Birds are amazing creatures. This is not just for the fact that they can fly, although remaining in flight during strong winds is a feat I could not imagine. Birds also have a strange ability to sleep with one eye open and half a brain awake.
To understand how this works, we need to study the research that has been conducted. We need to learn what the researchers have learned and if there is anything we can do to help our birds get a better night of sleep.
Obviously, I am only assuming that when one sleeps with one eye open and half their brain still in awareness status, it can not be a very restful sleep.
This ability is called Unihemispheric Slow Wave Sleep. Oddly, even while the bird is sleeping, it is aware enough to know when a predator is coming toward them. To go along with this research, it is believed that birds can make behavioural decisions in regards to half their brain asleep or the full brain asleep.
This research was done at Indiana State University by a neurophysiologist and his team. According to this group, it is the first evidence anywhere that shows that birds can control their own sleep and wake patterns at one time.
There are aquatic animals that have a similar ability that allows them to sleep and still get to the surface to breathe.
For birds, it appears that this one eye open, half the brain asleep are done when they feel they are at risk while sleeping. According to the neurophysiologist, birds use this ability at will. This research was actually performed to determine if sleep disorders happen when parts of the human brain are awake while the rest remains sleeping. It should be known that no testing has been done on humans in this regard, however.
Do Birds Close Their Eyes When They Sleep
Birds do most often sleep with both eyes closed, which one can assume means they have also allowed their brain to shut down and rest also. Birds do sleep while on their feet, although it seems they conform to an almost sitting position while doing so. Their feathers are slightly ruffled, and their breathing is gentle and rhythmic.
Birds will also experience REM, just as humans and other animals do. REM is Rapid Eye Movement. This would basically be considered when the subject, whether bird or human, is dreaming. So yes, apparently, birds dream also.
However, sleep cycles are much shorter for birds than they are for humans. Due to this, it is believed that birds have an odd sleep pattern. REM sleep lasts for roughly 9 seconds while non-REM sleep will last for roughly two minutes. This shows that birds are awake quite often throughout the night, with very short bursts of sleep in between.
Why Do They Leave One Eye Open
When a bird sleeps with one eye open it is done in a sense of self-preservation. This manner of sleeping allows for the bird to keep an eye open and they will be aware of any sign of a predator. This is done when they feel they may be at risk of danger.
When the bird sleeps like this, with one eye open, only half of its brain is at rest also. This Unihemispheric sleep, allows the bird to be aware of their surroundings.
There are some migratory birds that are able to sleep while flying. For those who migrate great distances, this can be quite beneficial.
Bird Eyelids versus Human Eyelids
Unless you are a person who gets up close and personal with birds, you probably have never considered whether a bird has eyelids or not. Most humans likely are not concerned over something such as that.
In actuality, a bird has three eyelids. There is one upper eyelid, one lower eyelid and one semi-transparent eyelid or membrane.
That is not the only way that a bird is different from a human and his eye. To begin, a bird does not blink as a human does. In the third eyelid, the inner membrane will clean and keep the eye moist. This blinking movement happens so quickly it is near impossible to see.
This membrane is also used as a form of protection when a bird feeds its babies. There are some birds who blink by raising the lower eyelid and others who lower the upper eyelid.
Some raptor birds will close the membrane as they are making rapid dives for prey, and some birds will close the membrane when they duck under the water to catch a fish.
Do Birds Ever Close Both Eyes
A bird is capable of closing both eyes when it is sleeping. However, it will only do this when the circumstances and its surroundings allow for this. If the bird feels that there is even a slight amount of risk to its life, it will not close both eyes.
However, as humans know, this is the stage where sleep is the most restful type of sleep. This deep sleep is a period of time that all creatures need. A bird will allow itself to get this rest at least occasionally.
If the bird has had an eventful day, is very busy and is worn out from excitement or stressful actions, he will close both eyes and actually get the needed rest that he probably deserves. There is a noticeable difference between the bird that is getting the needed rest and the one that is sleeping with both eyes closed, but it is not restful.
For the one that is worn out due to the activity of the day, it will not appear relaxed. The feathers will be held tightly against the body and the position of the body is fully upright, as though it is listening for sounds and just resting its eyes.
A bird that feels safe and comfortable where it is will have no issue sleeping with its eyes closed. This means that you are doing something right for the bird that is allowing it to fully relax.
Some birds will sleep with both eyes closed when they are sick. They will look the same as when they are happy and feel safe, except there may be other signs that something is wrong with the bird.
For instance, if there is noise around the bird that would normally disturb her sleep and she does not move, this could be a sign of an underlying health issue.
Do Birds Lie Down When They Sleep
There are some birds who do actually lay down when they are sleeping. Certain species of the parrot are known to curl up under a pile of newspaper and sleep soundly. Some will even lay on their backs at the bottom of their cage, this can be somewhat frightening to the owner. It may appear that the bird has not made it through life.
However, if you call the bird by name, or even jiggle the cage, the bird will likely wake from the sleep it is in and go back to his or her perch. However, it should also be known that some birds that feel safe and secure can still rest both halves of the brain and close both eyes while sitting on their perch.
You may be wondering if a bird that sleeps while on the perch falls off the perch when it hits the REM sleep pattern. The lesson for this would be that when a bird is standing up on the porch, the tendons act in such a way that forces the foot to close in around the perch. This provides a type of safety for the bird that prevents it from falling off the perch.
Ways To Make Your Bird Feel Safe
In order for the bird to obtain the restful sleep that it needs, it must feel safe and secure. For those who keep their birds close to them, placing the birdcage in an area that is not near a window or main traffic route through the house would give the bird a better chance of restful sleep.
Many owners also find that putting a cover over the cage, with the cage in a quieter room will enable the bird to get the complete rest it needs.
When the bird appears to want some rest, keep the noise levels in that area to a minimum and try to avoid bumping the cage or speaking when you are near the cage.
However, for those times that the bird has been flying around the home and socializing with you, then decides to take a nap on your shoulder, it would be best to move the bird to the bird cage and give it the chance to get some restful sleep.
If your bird seems to always sleep with one eye open, there would likely be something that is stressing your bird. Try to learn what this is before jumping to the wrong conclusion. It could be something as simple as too much noise around the birdcage. Simply moving the cage to a quieter location may be what your bird wants or needs.
Do keep in mind, that sleeping with one eye open is perfectly natural in the bird world. They may only do this during boring movies, just in case something exciting was to happen in the movie.