Do Owls Sleep At Night? What Time Do They Sleep & How Much Explained

Do Owls Sleep At Night

Wide-eyed and round-faced, owls are adorable creatures though their victims will definitely disagree. 

A common feature in our mythologies, they are both birds of wisdom and bad omens, depending on who you ask. 

While you may or may not have known of all this, one thing you think you definitely know about owls is their nocturnal nature. 

They are famous dwellers of the late hours of the night, hunting and flying about and resting during the day. 

But what if we told you that this was indeed not the case? 

That there are owls that prefer the evenings or the break of dawn? Or some who entirely prefer mornings and sleep at night just as we humans do? 

Though the majority of owls are believed to be nocturnal, some of the most famous among the 200 species follow different lifestyles. 

And so today, we are going to look at some of these owls’ routines. So without further ado, let us get into it!

Understanding Owl Sleep And Activity Patterns


Night owls are a common term now, for people who are most productive during the late hours of the night when the rest of us are usually busy asleep. 

And although most owls are famously nocturnal, there are other times of the day that they are active like dusk and dawn, or the day! 

Owls don’t have a set pattern of who is more active in the daytime and nighttime as other families of birds sometimes do. 

The primary factor that determines when an owl sleeps and when it stays active is the availability of prey. 

Depending on when their prey is most usually active is when owls are so that they have a much higher chance of success with their hunting endeavors. 

Another factor that plays into deciding the active period of owls is its habitat, as well as the seasonal variations there. 

Another thing to remember is that owls do not perfectly fit into diurnal and nocturnal categories as other well-defined families do.

When Do Nocturnal Owls Sleep?

The most common category among the 200-plus species of owls found worldwide, nocturnal owls are those that stay active during the late hours of the night. 

They feed primarily on rodents, voles, mice, rats, and other small mammals that do their own hunting during the night, and thus they are out and scurrying about. 

They usually perch atop branches and grasp onto them with their sharp talons, and sleep away during the daytime. 

They are still cautious during this sleep and at the slightest threat of any sort, they will wake up and move away in search of safer sleeping spots. 

The Great-horned Owl, the Eurasian eagle owl, the barn owl, etc are all famously night-dwelling birds.

When Do Diurnal Owls Sleep?

The opposite of nocturnal is diurnal, wherein the birds are active during the morning time and are sedentary and rest during the night, just like human beings. 

Daytime activity is not a predominantly prevalent pattern among owls and is only exhibited by a few like the northern hawk owl, the northern pygmy owl, the short-eared owl, and the burrowing owl. 

They also feed on rodents but have a more mixed bag with squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, hares, and small birds on the menu. 

Many of their prey is active during the day, and thus these birds forage in the morning and rest at night. 

Another difference between diurnal and nocturnal owls is that the latter relies almost entirely on their sense of vision during hunting while the former makes equal use of their sense of vision as well as hearing.

Crepuscular Owls

These are owls that like hunting and flying about during the break of dawn or dusk – though their activity period need not be as limited to these time periods as the above two. 

The pygmy owl is a famous example of owls that are active during the twilight hours. They have varying diets based on the location and season but most commonly feed on birds, rodents, insects, and lizards. They also eat mammals like squirrels, chipmunks, and gophers.

Why Are Owls Out During The Day?

If you see an owl out and about during the daytime, what you are probably seeing is a diurnal owl, which means that they are most active during the daytime as opposed to the night. 

They are usually out foraging for food, and they feed primarily on rodents, and small mammals like gophers, rabbits, hares, chipmunks, squirrels, and so on. 

It is also important to note that some owls can switch up their usual routines on the basis of season, location, and most importantly food availability. 

A great example to illustrate this is snowy owls who spend their summers in the Arctic, where the sun is up for about 12 to 24 hours a day! 

They mainly feed on large rodents and lemmings which are easier to hunt when it’s light out.

Do Owls Really Sleep During The Day?

Yes, the majority of owls who are nocturnal do! Adult owls usually sleep standing up and perched atop tree branches. 

They use their long sharp talons to grab on tight while sleeping so that they do not fall off. 

They sleep for about 10 – 12 hours during the day, resting after a long night of hunting and reserving energy for the coming night.

In Conclusion

So yes, what we knew about owls was not entirely wrong per say, but as with most things there is much more nuance between the lines. 

We hope you enjoyed traveling with us into the wonderfully curious world of owls, and that you learned something new!

Thank you for reading!

Related Articles You May Like

Scroll to Top