On frigid winter nights, many people are concerned that wild birds will survive through the night. While their nests are perfect for raising babies and young birds, they’re not the best places to sleep. In fact, the vast majority of birds do not sleep in their nests. Instead, they select other sites for roosting that provide warmth and protection.
Those locations vary, depending on the species and time of year. Songbirds like Blue Jays, cardinals and finches prefer dense evergreen foliage to keep them sheltered from the elements and safe from predators. Small birds like chickadees and woodpeckers find shelter in natural nooks and crevices, tree hollows, roosting boxes, birdhouses and cracks in buildings or chimneys. Others, like pigeons and doves, gather together in large flocks to share body heat.
Waterfowl such as geese and ducks may sleep right on the water. Their webbed feet help them stay afloat and any predator swimming near them creates vibrations that alert them to danger by sending signals down through the water.
Other species of waterbirds, like herons and flamingos, will sleep standing up in shallow water. This position helps them conserve energy while halving the loss of heat from their legs. Other waterfowl, such as mallards, goose and geese may roost in protected bays or along the shore where they can also detect approaching predators via the vibrations created by their movements through the water.