I’ve often wondered when and where do seagulls sleep?
People are so used to seeing seagulls fly above them near beaches and piers, but we rarely see them nodding off.
Do seagulls go somewhere to sleep? Do they build nests to sleep in? Do seagulls sleep alone?
For some reason, this bugged me enough to need to blog about it, so I did some research and here’s what I found.
Do Seagulls Sleep? How do Seagulls Sleep?
Seagulls can be any kind of seabird (there are actually more than 20 species of seagulls around the world). Yeah, that’s why they’re pretty common and can sometimes be called nuisance birds on coastlines and islands.
Like many birds, seagulls look for a safe place to sleep to avoid predators from attacking them while they’re vulnerable.
It’s rare to find pictures of seagulls with closed eyes because even during their deepest sleep, they open and close their eyes regularly.
This pattern, called unihemispheric sleep, ensures they obtain enough sleep to regain their strength, but still be alert enough to know if predators are nearby.
During this state, the brain of seagulls are actually half-awake and half-resting.
How cool is that?
Do seagulls sleep standing up?
You can see seagulls in two sleeping positions: standing with one leg up and sitting down on the ground.
Both positions help them conserve body heat in cold environments.
There is no position preference for every gull family. It is highly likely that they’ll choose their position based on the current climate and environment.
Just like most birds, seagulls tuck their bills into their feathers like this when they’re planning to sleep or take a nap lying down:
However, some seagulls have been found sleeping with one leg.
It’s an intriguing pose because seagulls could stand on one leg for several hours.
This is a similar characteristic to other seabirds like geese, ducks, and long-legged herons. They tuck the other leg in their feathers.
Seagulls are social birds and are known to live (and sleep) among a flock of their own species. Those that sleep with their flock can sleep anywhere – in water, by the roof, at the docks – since they can take shifts to prevent threats from predators.
With this sophisticated “shifting sleep,” some are able to sleep while the rest are on guard duty.
This doesn’t mean seagulls can’t sleep alone, though. They do. When a seagull sleeps alone, they most likely sleep in an environment near its nest.
Do seagulls sleep in the same place every night?
Seagulls are known to maintain nests and sleep in them every night during the breeding season.
These birds are protective of their chicks, which is why they prefer to be close to them 24/7.
However, migrating seagulls would have to leave their nest and find other sleeping spots along the way.
Even if they migrate miles to warmer environments during winter, the places they pick remain very similar: lakes, seas, reservoirs, beaches, etc.
What time do Seagulls Sleep?
Seagulls don’t have bedtimes. These birds don’t “go to bed” at any specific time.
However, as diurnal birds (meaning: they are birds known to be active/awake during the day and asleep at night), seagulls rest when the sun sets.
They are also aware once the sun rises, so expect seagulls to be active at the crack of dawn, around 5AM, and active the entire day.
The Swallow-tailed gull is an exception.
It’s the only seagull specie that hunts at nighttime since their choice of food includes plankton, shellfish, and fishes that are active at night.
Most seagull species also take naps even in the daytime, specifically right after feeding or when they need rest during migration.
How long do seagulls sleep?
The length of a seagull’s sleep varies. It depends largely on the season, whether they’re migratory birds or not, if they come in a group or alone, and if they have baby seagulls with them.
In general, seagulls sleep around 5 to 8 hours with their eyes open or close, standing up or lying down, or either alone or with their colony.
Where do Seagulls Sleep?
Seagulls are ground-dwelling birds, so it’s not surprising to see them sleeping on land.
While some seagulls sleep in nests, the majority of them don’t.
Instead, they just find a peaceful place to “call home” for the night. This is the reason why you find these seabirds atop weird places like roof toys, docks, boats, and more.
Some common areas you can find seagulls sleeping include:
- Nests – Seagulls can live inland, as long as the sleeping spot is close to water (where they find food), seagulls consider it a safe spot. They can even sleep in trees and other places non-seabirds prefer to sleep in. Baby seagulls sleep inside the nest for up to 6 weeks. When they’re ready to explore the “outside world,” these young seagulls can join adults but remain close to their parents for months.
- Boats and water – Seagulls love sleeping on a dock, on boats, or in the water where they could hunt food and sleep at the same time. Seagulls are naturally-buoyant, so sleeping on calm waters of lakes, rivers, and seas is a common sight.
- In the air – Seagulls are good flyers – it is why you see them flying by the beach or pier regularly. They don’t need a lot of space to land on. Sometimes, when they find it challenging to hunt for food, they might take leftovers from garbage cans.
- Rooftops – These seabirds love hanging out on rooftops and may find these spots safe enough to rest on. However, if the rooftop is small, there’s a chance these birds would spread out across two or more rooftops to be able to monitor each other while sleeping.
- Buildings and homes – Seagulls aren’t really afraid of the rain, wind or storms, but if they’re ready to sleep, they could find buildings a preferable sleeping spot for the night. They often avoid seas when the weather is rough.
Interested in Other Birds in Your Area?
Aren’t birds interesting?
Seabirds have been around forever, but I learned many tidbits about these birds only recently.
If you’re interested in learning about birds that visit your porch or those found predominantly in your town, check out these posts: