April 21, 2021

Baby Owls Sleep Face Down And We Don’t Think Our Lives Will Ever Be The Same Again

Adult owls are able to support the weight of their heads as they gain strength after a few months. But younger owls struggle to do so and have to lie down while napping.

Some birds and animals are born with normal-sized heads, some with tiny heads, and some with big very big heads. So big and heavy that their body can’t support its weight when they are sleeping. So, they sleep face down.

Many species of birds are born with heads that are too big or heavy for their bodies. But in the case of baby owls, their heads are so heavy, they sleep face down.

An image shared on social media of a baby owl sleeping face down confused netizens at first. But soon they learned it’s the bird’s natural sleeping style. As the picture gained traction, other users started sharing more instances of baby owls sleeping with their faces down.

A picture shared by author and journalist Mark Rees received curious reactions on Twitter.

“I’ve just discovered that baby owls sleep face down like THIS because their heads are too heavy. Also, I don’t think I’ve seen owl legs before….” Rees wrote.

Adult owls are able to support the weight of their heads as they gain strength after a few months. But younger owls struggle to do so and have to lie down while napping.

Mika McKinnon, a field geophysicist, shared a picture of a baby owl sleeping face down and asked her followers if they had any information to confirm the theory of babies being top-heavy.

“I haven’t found the original source for this pic, but it’s also suggested owls sometimes sleep laying down. Although I haven’t found any other ground face-plants or science articles on teenagers being top-heavy unstable sleepers… Any bird peeps want to confirm or debunk?” she wrote.

An article by the National Audubon Society explained how baby owls nap without falling from trees.

“A young owl doesn’t fall out of the tree while it snoozes, because its back toe, the hallux, holds onto the branch. The hallux will not open or let go until the bird bends its leg,” the article explained.

The responses have been pretty funny, as well as generally wholesome, starting off an entire owl appreciation thread:

It seems it’s not the first time these revelations have circulated on Twitter, and tweets from last year back up the endearing claims:

According to IFL Science, adult owls are able to sleep sitting up because their bodies are fully developed but because baby owls’ heads are simply so large, they have no option but to lie face down when they want some shut-eye.

Twitter user Mika McKinnon fact-checked the original picture and added more adorable pictures of sleeping owls to the interwebs, writing that as far as she could tell, it was true, but she asked for an owl expert to confirm, just in case.

Heather Hinam, Ph.D., wrote: “I’ve been trying to find the original photographer for this image, but no luck. It’s obviously a captive bird. Regardless, yes, young nestling owls do sleep, or rest lying down. Their heads are too heavy for their bodies. Here are some saw-whets from my Ph.D. research”

An article by the National Audubon Society, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to conservation, also confirmed the phenomenon.

A listener of the society’s podcast BirdNote said he’s found two baby owls and was advised to watch them sleep. He was delighted when he discovered them lying face down, heads turned to the side, which, admittedly, is a more elegant position than the faceplant featured at the start of this article!

The article added: “Their naps are short, and when they are asleep, they do not like to be awakened, even to be fed.”