Tips&TricksLittle owls napping habits unveiled: Why they sleep on their bellies and how their dreams may be like ours?

Little owls napping habits unveiled: Why they sleep on their bellies and how their dreams may be like ours?

Little owl.
Little owl.
Images source: © Getty Images | fantom_rd
8:38 AM EST, February 8, 2024

Young owls are an unusual sight. Their mothers usually keep them deep within a hollow, where they spend substantial weeks eating and gathering strength. As they grow, they begin leaving the nest to patrol the area. That's when they become visible to us while taking quick naps on tree branches. Interestingly, these little owls sleep lying down, so seeing a stretched-out bird might be a startling sight.

Why do little owls sleep prone?

When a bird hatches from an egg, it weighs only a few grams and its size is very small. It gains weight and grows feathers over time but remains relatively weak. An intriguing fact is that a little owl's head is so hefty that the bird cannot hold it up while sleeping. This is why their natural sleep position is to lie flat on their bellies. As they grow stronger and their muscles strengthen, they shift from this adorable sleep position.

Little owls tire quickly, and if they're far from the nest, they end up taking a nap on the nearest tree. There, they also lie prone. This posture may look comical from a human's perspective. While observers might worry that the owl would slide off, the chance of that happening are virtually nil. Owls possess a quick reflex in their outer toe, which helps them grip the branch. Hence, there is no reason to worry for their safety.

Do owls experience deep sleep?

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Lausanne have confirmed that owls experience the REM phase during sleep. This fascinating phenomenon is observed in all birds and mammals, triggering similar processes in their brains. This evidence suggests that owls sleep much like humans.

Extensive studies using encephalographs found that owls spend an exceptionally long time in the REM phase. During this phase, brain activity is high, implying that owls might experience dreams. Like humans, the duration of the REM phase decreases as the owl ages. So, if you ever come across a sleeping owl on a tree branch, make sure to stay quiet and refrain from touching it. Who knows, the bird might be living out its dreams now!

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