Monday, April 6, 2009

Sleep Tight!

A February, 1999 CNN Report (Reuters-London) revealed researchers have discovered birds can choose to sleep with one eye open and half their brain awake! It is called unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS), and it has also been observed in dolphins and manatees. It is one way a bird can get a little shut-eye while maintaining alertness to predators!

It is good to know that a bird can catch some winks with one eye open! Those of us with birds can sometimes become concerned when we see our bird with one eye closed. While it can be a sign of illness, and it is always prudent to keep an eye (pardon the pun) on unusual changes, researchers are helping us better understand how the avian sleep cycle works.

We know that our birds take naps during the day as well as sleeping at night. We can even catch them yawning on occasion which is so cute! Amongst other daytime activities, they spend time eating (foraging), preening, and playing. My birds also spend a portion of their day in meditation - simply looking out the window while contemplating the important questions of life.

As the sun goes down, the flock prepares for the night. When the morning dawns, they alert the world that a new day has begun.
I am often asked, "If your bird does not have a cage, where does she sleep?" The natural answer is: anywhere she wants (within Fort Coco, of course)! Occasionally she will sleep on her swing, but usually chooses one of the perches on the main pole. The pole simulates the trunk of a tree. In the wild, being near the trunk would provide a degree of both cover and protection. I believe it is this natural instinct that directs her choice each evening. Interestingly, she never selects the highest perch for roosting.

Sammy, my 28 year old cockatiel, lives a modified cage-free existence with his cage being the home base around which "Fort Sammy" was built. Sammy's door is open 24/7. Some nights he will sleep inside his cage, whereas other times he chooses the fort. The entire flock follows the cycle of the sun giving them an average of 12 hours each of light and darkness year around.

Sammy sits within the perimeter of Fort Coco, enabling the two to share certain areas while still maintaining their own space. Interestingly, Sammy never sleeps in Coco's area. During the day when they interact, they are quick to 'tattle' on each other if it is perceived that an unspoken rule of fort decorum may have been breached. Recently my husband was on the deck when he heard a ruckus coming from the bird room. Coco was screaming her green-head off! He went inside, looked around, and discovered Sammy was sitting atop her main house! Most days this would not be a problem; on this particular day, however, she would not settle down until the situation was corrected.

Sammy was returned to his own Fort, and paradise restored. All remained quiet for about an hour, until havoc once again broke out, with Sammy being the instigator of round two. Upon entering the room, he discovered Coco sitting on Sammy's fort! Perhaps Sammy was getting a taste of his own medicine!

Sammy has been in Coco's life since she arrived home at the tender age of 3 weeks. Their ability to share space did not evolve naturally; it is a result of fostering the relationship through the use of positive reinforcement. (More on the topic of positive reinforcement in future posts.) But when it comes to sleeping, each moves to their own tree!

For some fascinating reading on avian sleep, try:
Power Napping in Pigeons
Birds Take Power Naps to Keep Senses Alert During the Day
The Avian Brain and Senses



Jim said...

Another great post/article. I'm liking this blog!

Shirley Morgan said...

I love this blog!

clifff123 said...

I'm keeping track, good updates keep posting!!

Robin said...

Thanks for the encouragement! :)

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