Carol's Corner

Catching ZZZ’s—Avian Style

Sleeping GooseHave you been tired lately? Many of us are. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. One recent morning while nursing a cup of coffee, I found myself pondering sleep and the lack thereof.

Suddenly, a flash at the feeder caught my eye. Five goldfinches simultaneously erupted from the dawn to dine. I could barely shuffle into the kitchen, yet they had soared to life. My mind raced with wonder. What were their sleep patterns like? How did they manage to sleep while perched on a branch yet I struggled for shut eye on a Sealy’s Posturepedic?

Seems birds have remarkable abilities when it comes to sleep. Consider a couple of avian sleep skills sure to impress and may even leave you a tad envious:

While we can lock our doors at night and sleep soundly, birds must be ever vigilant for potential predators. Their trick? Birds can shut down one-half of their brain and sleep with the other half awake. This skill, called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep, allows them to remain on alert while catching shut eye (literally, one eye is open, the other is closed). Even more amazing is that the dozing bird can regulate how much of its brain sleeps by controlling how wide that eye is open!

It gets better. Consider the infamous avian power nap. A study on the Swainson’s Thrush found that micro-naps of several seconds (yep, that’s right, seconds) may help birds replace lost nighttime sleep. Okay, now I am jealous.

And don’t even start me on frigatebirds that can sleep on the fly. Click on the link to check out this informative Audubon article on Sleep in Frigate Birds.

Some days, I truly do wish I were a bird, don’t you?

Have a Bluebird Day!