When it rains, birds do their best to find shelter and make do when they can’t. Finding a good place to sleep while it rains is key to a bird’s survival.
But where do birds sleep when it rains?
Birds sleep in nooks of trees, in hedges, and in snags when it rains. There, they’ll remain motionless to preserve energy. Although their water-resistant feathers provide a protective layer against the rain, a prolonged storm can cause hypothermia, which is why birds need to rest somewhere warm.
What Do Birds Do When It Rains?
For most birds, light rain doesn’t cause any problems. Their feathers are water-resistant, thanks to oil from the preen glands, and they trap air close to the body for insulation.
However, heavy rain forces birds to seek shelter in trees and bushes.
When birds are riding out a storm, they do their best to conserve energy by remaining motionless and resting.
That’s because it’s difficult for most birds to find food during a storm, especially birds that rely on insects for food. Insects tend to be inactive in the rain, creating a crisis for these birds.
Because of this, birds are sometimes unable to survive multiple days of stormy weather. They become unable to produce enough heat and die of hypothermia.
Usually, birds can puff up their feathers to conserve heat for longer periods, but heavy rains force them to keep their feathers close as a water-protectant layer.
During a rainstorm, birds that can’t find shelter will posture themselves to withstand the storm as well as they can.
That often means withdrawing the head and pointing the beak towards the rain. This posture limits the bird’s exposure to the storm and encourages the rain to slide off the feathers instead of absorbing it.
Shorebirds have a reputation for huddling close together during rainstorms to conserve heat, with all assuming the beak-to-the-rain posture.
Small birds are most at risk of hypothermia during heavy storms. Young chicks are most vulnerable, so the breeding season is the most dangerous time for storms for a bird population.
How Mother Birds Protect Their Babies During the Rain
Baby birds don’t have their water-resistant feathers yet, and they’re tiny.
That means two things: they can’t keep water out or trap heat close to their bodies, and their bodies can’t afford to lose much heat.
Mother birds protect their babies from the rain by covering them with their own features and creating an insulating layer for the babies to rest inside.
See the following video example of a robin protecting her babies during a rainstorm:
Mother birds are particularly challenged during heavy rain periods because they can’t leave forage without leaving their babies unprotected.
For this reason, baby birds often don’t survive prolonged periods of heavy rain unless they have full shelter, like the inside of a bird box.
Do Any Birds Like the Rain?
Ducks are one of the few birds that do well during the rain. In fact, they tend to stay out during the downpour, preen their feathers, and play in puddles.
Flooded areas provide new territory, and more rain means fewer predators around. Plenty of rain also means more available insect larvae, which ducks rely on for food.
Ducks dislike cold and windy weather, though, so a rainy day is good for ducks so long as the storm isn’t too turbulent.
When it’s windy, ducks will find shelter in protected areas, like lake coves and river backwaters.
Why Don’t Birds Fly in the Rain?
Birds don’t fly in the rain partly because they need to conserve energy, and flying is a big energy expenditure.
And they also choose not to fly because of the changes in air pressure that happen during a storm, making it more difficult to fly.
During a rainstorm, the air has low pressure and low density, making it harder for birds to get the kind of aerodynamic lift they need to fly.
The water also takes up space in the air, making it even less dense and more difficult to fly.
Where Do Birds Sleep?
Because birds are prey animals, their main concern when sleeping is finding a place that’ll be safe from predators.
Many of these birds find cavities or niches where they can tuck away to rest, like tree cavities, dense thickets, or snags.
These birds also use man made bird roost boxes, or empty birdhouses, like Nature’s Way Bird Products CWH1 Cedar Wren House.
Other birds have different sleeping habits, like waterfowl. Ducks, geese, and other waterfowl sleep floating on the water in large groups.
This allows them to feel the vibrations of a moving predator in the water, which will wake them up.
Wading birds like herons, flamingos, herons, and egrets also use water as an alarm system.
They sleep standing in the water or standing on an island and listen to the water for splashing sounds and other movement signs.
Small birds will sleep perched in trees, high in the canopy, and close to the tree trunk.
The trunk holds in heat, which makes it a great place for shelter, and the birds can sense predators climbing the tree through vibrations in the trunk.
Many birds sleep together in flocks. In these cases, some of the birds will stay awake through the night on the edge of the group to guard against predators.
How Birds Sleep During the Rain
When birds go to sleep during a rainstorm, they’re extra careful to choose a spot that not only protects them from predators but also protects them from the storm.
This usually means tucking away in thick hedges or on the downwind side of a tree. Some birds build nests in tree cavities and can simply return to them, including woodpeckers, bluebirds, and chickadees.
When birds are first seeking out their territory, they travel for miles looking for a place that will have adequate shelter in the case of a storm.
This helps later when it’s storming, and they’re looking for a place to sleep.
Do Birds Sleep in Birdhouses?
Birds often use birdhouses for shelter, whether for rest or nesting and caring for the young.
Creating and hanging bird boxes is a great way to give birds a greater chance of survival because it gives them a place to sleep away from predators and away from inclement weather.
If you’re looking to establish a new bird box, just make sure that the site is close to food and water sources and that the birds will be able to gather nearby nesting material.
This means choosing a place close to trees and shrubs, and especially native species.
Can Birds Tell When Rain Is Coming?
Birds can tell that bad weather is coming by feeling the change in air pressure.
This allows them to prepare by foraging more, fattening up in preparation for a long time of energy conservation.
You’ll often notice birds flocking to feeders shortly before a storm and hunkering down in place.
Scientists aren’t sure how birds can feel differences in air pressure, but they’ve suggested a few possible methods birds might use.
The most prominent theory is that the inner ear detects air pressure changes, like ours do when we change altitude and notice a “pop.”
Another possibility is that birds use the air sacs connected to their lungs to detect air pressure changes.
Birds also use their ability to detect air pressure to predict storms and gauge their height while flying. Birds can sense and maintain differences in altitude as small as five meters.
Birds survive rain storms by finding warm places to tuck away and will sleep in these nooks. A tree cavity, hedge, or bird box would make a great place for a bird during a storm.
Young birds are particularly vulnerable during the rain, so it’s important that mother birds can protect them throughout the storm’s length.