Why Don’t Birds Fall When They Sleep?


There are many different species of birds and many of these sit and sleep on different perches.

Birds don’t fall off their perch when they sleep due to tendons in the ankle. The tendons stretch, closing the toes automatically when the bird lands on a perch.

If you want to know more then please read on.

Why Do Birds Need Perches?

Birds need to rest as they do not have the energy to fly constantly. Birds use perches to rest, interact, and play with other birds, as well as sleep. Birds also need to feed and can find many species of insects in and around trees. Perches can also be a great way to hide and protect themselves from predators.

Where Do Birds Perch?

Different species of perching birds stand in different places and you may have seen birds sitting on top of phone or electricity wires. Others sit on fence posts while some tiny birds such as the marsh wren even sit on reeds.

Ground-walking birds have evolved their feet in a different way to flying birds. Toes are longer and straighter in ground-walking birds to enable them to walk easier.

Woodpeckers, nuthatches, treecreepers, and other birds that cling to bark have different types of claws. Their claws are curved and extremely strong to allow them to grip onto the bark.

Why Do Birds Not Fall From Their Perch?

Songbirds grasp branches with their toes and are known as perching birds. Perching birds have four toes and these help them to stay on their perch when they sleep. When a four-toed bird sits on a branch they bend their legs and their toes grip the branch tightly.

Three of the toes face forwards and one points to the rear. The rear toe is stronger than the front-facing toes and when the hind toe grasps the branch, tendons in the leg pull the toes tight together. The tendons allow the songbird to stay on the branch even when asleep without falling off.

The movements of the foot and toes are controlled through the tendons and muscles in the leg. There is a wide variety of number and arrangement of tendons depending on the species of the bird. The tendons of the flexor muscles pass behind the ankle. When the ankle joint is bent the toes tighten up, gripping their perch.

The Achille’s tendon in birds extends from the gastrocnemius muscle from above the ankle. The tendon runs down to the back of the foot and then along the bottom of the toes. When a bird lands on a branch, the ankle bends, stretching the Achilles’ tendon.

The tendons, flexor digitorum longus and flexor halluciss longus, are connected to flexor muscles in the leg. The hallucis works the back toe, known as the hallux, while the digitorum works the three toes in the front. Both tendons stretch over the ankle and these allow a strong grip without the birds having to use their muscles. Some birds also have ridges that lock the toe tendons in place to stop the bird from falling.

When the bird wants to unlock their toes they stand up and their legs straighten. This allows the tendons to relax, and the toes become straight again, allowing the bird to fly away.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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