cold snow sea bird

Do Ducks Sleep With Their Eyes Open? (I Was Pleasantly Surprised)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Ducks are fascinating birds and from the time I have kept them as pets and also rearing them, I have discovered some interesting facts about these awesome birds.

One of such facts is their sleeping habits and how they sleep.

Do ducks sleep with their eyes open? Yes ducks sleep with one eye open and the other eye closed. This is simply a defense mechanism that allows them to be aware of their surroundings and detect danger even while sleeping. While sleeping with one eye open they also shut down half of their brain which also helps them stay alert and aware of their surroundings.

Why do ducks sleep with their eyes open?

Do Ducks Sleep With Their Eyes Open

A few weeks ago, I and a few friends went camping and we stumbled on a flock of beds floating down stream

Looking intently at them I noticed that they birds had been napping even though they were not sleeping too soundly.

Researchers have found out that ducks and some other birds actually sleep with one eye.

This study carried out by a sleep researcher at the Indiana State University involved a group of scientists filming mallard ducks while they slept.

They found out that the birds on both ends of the row – those that would be easily attacked and vulnerable to predators, did keep their exposed eyes open while they slept.

While those on both sides of them,meaning those that were not likely to get attacked by predators, kept both eyes shut or did not have any preference for which eyes they had open.

What they discovered that while sleeping with one eye open, one part of the birds brain is alert while the other is shut down

This allows the birds to be aware of their surroundings and sense any danger before it happens

Birds that sleep at the end of the line engage in this single-hemisphere sleep more often than ducks positioned in the middle. 

In the study, it was discovered that birds stationed at ends of a line kept their outside eyes open 86 percent of the time.

Related: Check out this article I wrote on do ducks need a coop?

How long do ducks sleep?

Ducks can sleep for about 10 hours straight without any issues.

Unlike other animals, ducks usually have a daily pattern of activity and rest.

They are very active during the day (diurnal) and less active at night where they need to rest and sleep.

In general ducks sleep for about 45% of the average total sleep time which roughly equates to 10 hours of sleep in a 24 hours cycle.

Why do ducks sleep with their head backward?

When ducks want to sleep, they adopt something called the “wing tuck” method.

What this means is that they rest their heads on their backs while they nuzzle their beaks into their back feathers.

What this does with their heads tucked backwards is that it allows the birds to rest their neck muscles and it also serves as a way to conserve heat.

It is also possible that as they relax in sleep, the beaks of the birds slide down and end up resting partly under the wings of the birds.

What time do ducks go to sleep?

Ducks especially mallard ducks usually sleep intermittently and take naps.

By contrast, Muscovy ducks (Cairina moschata) are members of the tree duck clade, and often elect to roost above the ground at night. 

Most ducks take brief naps throughout the day, and normally do so on dry land. 

Often, naps are part of an elaborate grooming process that occurs several times each day. 

The cycle begins with a period of foraging, after which the ducks bathe, and then preen their feathers; napping is the final step in the process.

So there really is no set time for when ducks go to sleep.

While they often sleep at night, their activity period is not limited to sunlit hours.

It has even been known that some species may migrate at night

And at some other times they may feed all through the night.

Do ducks sleep standing up?

Yes ducks sleep standing up on one leg and this is perfectly and nothing to be worried about.

This is something called unipedal resting and it helps to regulated and maintain the bird’s body temperature

When ducks are on ice, the amount of unfeathered surface is exposed to the elements by standing on one leg.

So as the birds come in contact with the cold surface, their arteries will move warm blood into their legs as they come in contact with the veins

By subtracting the amount of unfeathered surface that touches the cold ground, birds keep themselves warmer.

Also ducks may bend their legs slightly to maintain their balance. They also switch their legs during unipedal resting which helps prevent tissue damage.


Yes ducks sleep with one eye open. This is a defense mechanism where they also shut down half of their brains so they are aware of their surroundings and any predators approaching.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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