When you think of nocturnal animals, the first species that most likely strikes your mind is the owl. They’re almost synonymous with nocturnal nature. That’s why we refer to people who stay up late at night as “Night Owls.”
There are many questions about owls that most people have no answer to. One reason might be because people have had little interaction with the birds. They come out at night and head back to their bedrooms at dawn.
But do owls really have a bedroom? The better question is, where do they sleep? In this article, we answer this question for you.
Owls Have Nest But Prefer Cavities
Almost all birds create nests to rest as and when necessary. And so does owls. They rest in nests after a long tiring day (read “night”) of work.
But nests aren’t their regular resting place. Most owls prefer to sleep inside of any type of hole, also known as cavities. So if they see a hollow on a tree or some space in between rocks, that’s enough for them to rest for the day.
Tree cavities are the most common spots you’re going to find them dozing. The cavities can form naturally or create by a woodpecker.
You’ll find Elf Owls occupying the holes of saguaro cacti, which are created by woodpeckers.
Another type of owls, Barn Owls, like to sleep in empty buildings and in silos. But they aren’t restricted to buildings and can doze off in cavities along cliffs too.
Burrowing Owls select an interesting place to sleep. They sleep in underground tunnels that are often dug by ground squirrels and badgers. If they find these places vacant, Burrowing owls lay inside of them.
Finally, you have Snowy Owls who create their nests by scraping a bowl on the ground.
So safe to say you’ll find owls dozing off at a wide variety of places. But cavities is seemingly their favorite place.
Why Owls Choose Cavities?
Animals choose their sleeping place depending on their habitat and position in the food chain.
Let’s take the example of a lion. Lions eat and survive on raw meat. This requires the most comfortable conditions to get digested.
Therefore, you’ll see the lions sleep somewhere between 18-20 hours after a meal. They often sleep in shades under the trees. But if there are bigger animals like hippos or elephants around, then they climb up the trees and sleep on the branches.
Owls are birds, and they eat very little at a time. They feed on insects and rodents. Thus, owls have to work every day to feed their stomach.
The quest for food requires them to travel from place to place. So it doesn’t make sense to build a nest and stay within a territory when the availability of the food is scattered unevenly.
Cavities are ready-made, and it requires minimal effort to arrange. So owls find it easier to rest rather than spending energy on building a nest from scratch.
But that isn’t to say they don’t build their nest. They do at times, and that’s the subject of our next section.
When do Owls Build Nest?
Owls are lazy at building their own nest. As already stated, they take shelter in an open cavity or an abandoned nest. So they take advantage of the hard work put in by other birds.
But there are times where they build their own nest from scratch. And that is during the breeding season. Many owl couples prefer to create a nest that’s safe and far away from sight.
It’s the female owls who pick the site for their nest. They gather all the necessary stuff like small branches, hays, sticks and put them in one place. The male owls are responsible for defending the nest.
Together, they spend several months in the nest. They leave only after the eggs hatch and the young ones learn to fly. But this takes several weeks.
But generally, you’ll find owls sleeping in cavities and in the silos. So look at those places if you want to click some owl pictures when they’re asleep.
When Do Owls Leave Their Nests?
Owls build their nest to raise a family. The female lays the eggs while the male is busy protecting the nest.
When the young owls hatch, they are fully white with downy feathers. Their eyes remain closed for at least a couple of weeks. Till that time, they can neither see nor fly.
Also, they aren’t able to thermoregulate, i.e., regulate their body temperature.
Thus, it’s the mama owl’s duty to keep them safe and raise them till they’re able to live by themselves.
The male owl is responsible for gathering the food for the entire family.
The owls leave the nest as soon as the young nestlings can thermoregulate. They aren’t able to fly yet. So they move into the nearby vegetation.
The ones that are raised on trees like Northern Hawk Owls move to the denser part of the tree. The ones that are raised on the ground, like Snowy Owls, find themselves in nearby shrubs.
After 4-5 weeks, they learn to fly and start hunting and living like a regular owl.
How & Where do Owls Sleep?
Baby owls sleep with their head on the surface. Because owls have a larger head compared to the body, the young ones do not have enough strength to sleep upright.
Many people mistakenly think that the owls in such a posture are dead. But they’re just taking a nap.
Adult owls can sleep with their head held up. They can sleep on the tree branches by tightly gripping them with their hallux.
Owls can sleep up to 12 hours straight in the same position if left undisturbed.
To Sum up
Owls are one of the fascinating species, especially for kids. Since they are not typically seen during the day time, it’ll be harder to spot them flying around.
Barn owls can be found in your backyard or in trees. Other types of owls have their own sleeping place.
So if you’re looking to spot an owl, be prepared for some work and luck to go your way.