do birds need dark to sleep

Should you cover your birds cage at night? It depends on the situation. Some birds prefer to remain uncovered during bedtime, and other birds simply cannot sleep without a “security blanket.”

On average, birds need about 12 hours of good, quality sleep each night to remain in peak condition. Much like people, their rest periods can be disturbed by noise and bright light. For this reason, many owners choose to cover their birds at night.

Why Should You Cover the Cage?

In the wild, parrots roost in tree holes or sleep there. These holes are commonly called a nest cavity. In North America, nest cavities are used by about 85 different species of birds. However, the loss of the habitat where many bird species find or make their nest cavities has been an issue. The habitats they seek are sometimes referred to as snags, and they are mainly composed of dead or decaying trees.

Occasionally, a branch that dies and falls off the tree owing to internal decay can give rise to these nest cavities in trees. Some tree holes are abandoned for a variety of reasons after being dug by other organisms. Birds will occupy the abandoned nest cavity and even personalize it by expanding it with their teeth through the rotting wood, or they will just settle in an abandoned hole that appears to be a good fit for them. These dark nest cavities offer the bird protection during the night and a secure area to sit on eggs and tend to their young. This hollow provides protection from winds and rain for the family of birds. It’s as dark as a bird’s nest left out on a branch.

When you consider it, a bird’s cage or enclosure serves more purposes than just providing protection and ensuring that it stays out of harm’s way when left alone. It’s a secure spot to unwind, play, and amuse oneself in a secure setting.

Using a cage cover at night mimics that nest cavity. It also shelters the bird from any ambient light that is in your home as well as allowing your bird to sleep without any drafts caused by air conditioning or an air purifier that you might have running. Covering your bird at night might also help prevent night frights.

Have you ever looked down on the illuminated earth from an airplane at night? Our different light sources are visible from a great distance away, and the brightening of the night sky above cities is known as the “urban sky glow.” Modern civilizations obviously require light sources at night, but a reduction in darkness can have serious negative effects on health and wake-sleep cycles. Some animals cannot always avoid light pollution, even though humans have discovered strategies to cope with it.

According to this study, birds that live in cities can not only become accustomed to the city lights but actually prefer to have some light at night. Even though the researchers used light intensities that approximated actual light pollution, the illumination was still quite low, and birds that were building their nests beneath street lamps would have seen light that was up to 13 times more intense. Ulgezen and her colleagues hypothesize that the reason birds choose the lit areas is because more light gives them more time to forage and entice members of the opposite sex. But why do birds prefer light over darkness?

Zeynep Ulgezen of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, along with a global group of colleagues, sought to determine the effects of nighttime lighting on birds. Great tits (Parus major) were captured for the study from both urban and forested areas, and the researchers tested the tits’ preference for sleeping in complete darkness or in dim green or white LED light (1 5 lx). After that, they left the birds in either continuous darkness or nightly white or green illumination for 14 days, during which time they kept an eye on the birds’ energy levels, activity, and sleep patterns. In order to measure the animals’ oxalic acid levels—a biomarker for sleep disruption—the researchers also collected blood samples from the birds before and after the treatment. They also compared the memory and learning abilities of the great tits exposed to the various light conditions by teaching them to distinguish between colors and choose a particular color in exchange for a reward.

To their surprise, Ulgezen and her colleagues discovered that all of the birds chose to sleep in dim light rather than in complete darkness, and that when given the option, they chose green light sources over white ones. The birds’ memory and learning were not affected by nightly illumination, and there was no evidence of sleep disruption in their blood levels when the researchers examined the effects of sleeping in the light. But at night, the birds were more active due to both light sources. Compared to those who slept in complete darkness, the great tits that slept in white light woke up nearly three hours earlier, and those that slept in green light woke up half an hour earlier. As a result, birds that experienced nighttime light pollution expended more energy than birds that slept in total darkness. However, the birds’ place of origin also affected the light’s effect. While urban birds displayed the same level of activity under both green and white light, the animals that were photographed in a forest were most active during the night.

Julia Nowack; Birds dont mind the light – if its dim enough. J Exp Biol 1 October 2019; 222 (19): jeb193060. doi:


Can birds sleep with lights on?

Birds preferred to sleep under artificial light instead of darkness, and green was preferred over white light.

Should I give my bird a night light?

Need for Darkness Lights and activity will keep a bird awake since its instincts are to stay awake during this time when predators may be present. He may be able to sleep while there is noise, but movement will keep him on the alert.

Do birds need silence to sleep?

It’s very important for pet birds to have 10–12 hours of darkness and quiet every night.