How Do Owls Sleep? It May Surprise You

by Derrick | Last Updated: August 2, 2021

We often look at nature and wonder how they live their life; where and how they sleep.

How do owls sleep?  Baby owls sleep face down. Owls are born with large heads that make it hard for the baby owl’s tiny bodies to hold up their head while sleeping.  Adult owls will sleep perched on a branch holding on with either one or both legs.

Owls do not usually tuck their head, which is common to see with many different kinds of birds.

Owls also do not sleep upside down, this is a common myth.

Baby Owls Sleep Like Baby Humans

As we said earlier baby owls (owlets) often sleep laying down, much like baby humans. 

The first thing you’ll notice about baby owls is that they’re blind!  They also have very small eyes compared to adults so they can’t focus in bright light as well as an adult would be able to.

They don’t open their eyes until after hatching because their eyelids aren’t developed enough. The only way they know when it’s time to wake up is by hearing noises around them or feeling vibrations through the ground.

With all of this being said baby owls, like baby humans, take time to develop and grow into adulthood which is evidenced by them sleeping differently than adult owls.

How Long Does It Take For A Baby Owl To Grow Into An Adult Owl?   It takes approximately two years before a baby owl becomes an adult owl. During these two years the young owlet grows from 0-3 inches long. At three weeks old the owlet starts growing feathers but doesn’t start gaining weight until six months. By nine months the owlet has grown wings and begins hunting prey. After 12 months the owlet reaches full maturity and is ready to mate. 

Owls Are Nocturnal Animals

Many people wonder why owls do not sleep at night?  Well, owls are nocturnal.

Nocturnal means “night” in Latin. This refers to animals who spend most of their lives active during nighttime hours.

Other nocturnal animals include: bats, hedgehogs, mice, moles, rabbits, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, snakes, spiders, frogs, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and some insects.

At night, owls will hunt prey such as rodents, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. During the day they rest and digest food from the previous evening.

During the daytime they may go hunting again but mostly stay close to home.

Where Do Owls Tend To Nest?

When it comes to nesting, owls prefer dark places away from human activity.  Owls will commonly sleep in hollow spots in trees, but owls nest in a variety of ways. According to Audubon International several species, “such as great gray and great horned owls, live in old hawk or squirrel nests. Others, including the snowy owl and short-eared owl, nest on the ground.”

Owls generally need quiet environments without a lot of noise that might disturb them.

Nesting Boxes

If you are looking to have owls on your property, or create a nice cozy place for them to sleep, you could create a nesting box for the species that do tend to nest.

Audubon International gives a basic plan with their owl fact sheet, or you can watch this video:

Benefits Of Nesting Boxes

The benefits of owl boxes are numerous.  The main benefit is they are easy to make. By placing a number of them around your property, you can create the perfect area for owls to nest, thereby over time increasing the overall density of owls on and around your property.

Negatives Of Nesting Boxes

Any type of bird house, nesting box, etc. can provide some challenges for birds and/or owls.  Boxes generally are made from wood and have one entrance or exit. Predators can often get on top of the roof of the box and block the exit or ambush the owl when they are attempting to exit the owl box.

This can be overcome by placing the box somewhere where it isn’t as easy for predators to see or access.

Common predators of owls are foxes, coyotes, larger birds of prey and unfortunately humans.

Nesting Box Placement

Nesting boxes should be placed within a tree at a height of approximately 10 to 15 feet.  It should be placed far enough from structures or other objects where a car or other predator could climb/leap from to access the box.  You should also be careful to avoid putting the box near any power lines or wires.

According to Audubon.org, the entry to the box should face east or south. This will allow owls to sit in the entry way and have access to ample sunlight for comfort and warmth.

You want to try not to put more than two boxes per acre because this could lead to an overpopulation of owls and competition for resources. 

 Sources:

Audubon International Owl Fact Sheet

How to Build a Screech-Owl Next Box