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Where & How Do Ducks Sleep? (The Adaptable Sleepers)

Ducks spend a lot of time sleeping and resting during the day. They may do so in the water, or on land, depending on the conditions. When they sleep, they can do so on one leg, or they can sleep with half of their brain.

Ducks are some of the most adaptable creatures out there. They can thrive in almost any environment, and they’re always up for finding new sources of food and shelter. 

But where do ducks sleep? And more interestingly, how do they sleep?

Ducks don’t just sleep laying down but have a number of ways they can alter their sleeping conditions.

In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the topic of how ducks sleep.

How Do Ducks Sleep?

Ducks sleep in intervals. They’ll sleep for short durations throughout the day. When they are sleeping, they can have different positions and make use of unihemispheric sleep.

Ducks aren’t regular sleepers. They’ve evolved to implement a variety of techniques to optimize how they sleep.

First, there’s their position. Ducks have several positions they can sleep in.

Second, they can make use of unihemispheric sleep (more on that later).

Third, they sleep with one eye open.

All of these adaptations have evolved over many years, allowing ducks to optimize how they sleep, heat conservation while sleeping, and reduce attacks from predators while they sleep.

ducks sleeping at night

Ducks Have Various Sleeping Positions

Ducks have various sleeping positions depending on where they are when they go to sleep[1]

If a duck is sleeping in water, it’ll either rest its head on its chest or turn its head back to rest it on its back.

When ducks sleep on land, they’ll typically be standing on one leg. They do this to conserve body heat, as only one leg will be exposed, and the other will be protected by its feathers.[2]

Ducks Sleep With one leg

Single Hemisphere Sleep

Ducks can sleep with one half of their brain, while one half of the brain remains active[2]. This type of sleep is known as unihemispheric slow-wave sleep or USWS. 

It occurs in aquatic mammals and birds where their brains have a very specialized connection to their respiratory system. This allows for continued oxygenation of blood in one hemisphere when sleeping.

It also allows for continued visual vigilance of the environment, preservation of movement, meaning ducks are aware and resting at the same time.

Ducks Sleep With One Eye Open

Most animals sleep with both eyes closed, but ducks are unique in that they sleep with one eye open. The main reason for this is to be able to react quickly if there’s any danger nearby, such as a predator approaching while the duck is sleeping.

This is connected to their ability to sleep with one half of their brain at a time.

Ducks Sleep With One Eye Open

Ducks Take Power naps

Ducks don’t sleep for long periods of time. Instead, they take part in intermittent resting, otherwise known as power naps.

They’ll rest and sleep several times a day, instead of one long rest.

Where Do Ducks Sleep?

Ducks are very flexible when it comes to sleeping locations. Some breeds prefer to sleep on water, while others sleep on land.

The most natural place for a duck to rest is in the water. Water Ducks will often float around on the surface of the water with their body completely submerged underwater. 

When doing this, they’ll make use of unihemispheric slow-wave sleep (USWS). During USWS, half of the brain will go into a deep sleep, while the other half stays awake.

This way, they can still move, still observe, and still control their respiratory system.

This allows for effective sleeping without drowning.

Ducks can also sleep on land. When doing so, they’ll stand on one leg. This way, one of their legs is protected against cold temperature, reducing the energy they use and increasing heat preservation.

Ducks Sleeping in the water

Can Ducks Swim and Sleep at the Same Time?

Yes, they can. Ducks can sleep and swim at the same time due to unihemispheric sleep.

While water birds such as ducks spend most of their waking hours in the water to remain safe from land-based predators such as foxes, being in the water does not mean that they can’t sleep. 

Ducks have developed the ability to sleep and swim at the same time. This is due to their ability to sleep with just one half of their brain at a time. 

When Do Ducks Sleep?

Ducks take many small naps throughout the day, taking part in intermittent resting. They sleep both during the day and night.

In reality, a duck sleeps both at night and during the day. While they may seem to be always awake and active, they take several short naps throughout the day and at night. 

Humans know this as “power napping”.

It is typical for ducks to take several naps throughout the day. While they are napping, they may only sleep with one half of their brain, to make sure they’re still aware of predators or threats.

duck family sleeping

Are Ducks Nocturnal?

Many ducks are nocturnal, while others are both nocturnal and diurnal. During the night, ducks will feed, lay eggs, and do other activities.

Nocturnal behavior is a term for animals that do their main activities at night.

With ducks, this is largely dependant on the weather.

When the weather is warmer, most ducks will roam around at night. If it’s too warm for them during the day, they prefer to roam around at night. During these times, they’ll sleep more during the day.

However, when it’s cold out, ducks tend to be more diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day. Ducks make use of the warmer hours in the day to feed and roam.

Most ducks implement a mix of nocturnal and diurnal activity, as they take naps throughout the day.

duck at night

What Do Ducks Do at Night?

Ducks spend their days and nights in different ways. They generally spend the daytime preening, eating, resting, or swimming around in ponds or lakes.

Ducks may alter their daily and nightly activities depending on the temperature.       

When ducks are active at night, they’ll spend this time eating, mating, eating, feeding their younglings, as well as resting.

Where Do Ducks Go at Night?

Ducks will stay near their nest at night, finding food nearby. They may also be resting in the water with a group of ducks.

In the wild, ducks tend to find food at night. In many cases, they will remain near their nest to keep eggs or ducklings safe from predators. 

However, if the food is plentiful in a certain area, they may fly off to take advantage of it. Ducks have been known to travel long distances when there is a shortage of food in the area near their nest.

Meanwhile, domesticated ducks tend to remain near their nests at night, especially if they have been fed during the day. Generally, ducks stay relatively close to home when darkness falls.

duck walking at night

Are Ducks Active During the Day?

Ducks can be active during the day, but on warmer days, they tend to rest in the water. They may also feed during the day.

Some duck breeds are more active during the day, however, it depends on the temperature. On warmer days, they spend more time resting during the day, and start their activities when the temperature drops.

During the breeding season, some ducks change their behavior to become crepuscular, meaning they are most active during twilight hours. 

What Do Ducks Do During the Day?

Ducks spend a great deal of time loafing around, resting, and sleeping during the day when it’s warm. Their daily activities vary depending on their species. Their main goal is to find food and stay safe while doing so.

Mallards, for example, typically spend the first couple of hours after sunrise preening their feathers. This is followed by an intense feeding session, where they search for food to store up fat for the rest of their day.   

Mallard duck flying and escaping

Where Do Ducks Go During the Day?

Ducks typically stay in flocks and live near water sources such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

They’ll spend their days in the water with a group of other ducks. This provides them with more safety and protection in case a predator comes by.

Where Do Ducks Sleep in the Winter?

Ducks migrate before the cold winter months, hence, they don’t spend much time in cold weather. If they don’t migrate, they’ll sleep on land or in the water.

Some ducks migrate south for the colder months, but some species stay where they live all year round, where they find shelter and places to sleep.

If it’s warm enough, they may just sleep in the water.

Related: Where do ducks go in the winter?

duck in winter alone

Ducks in Extreme Weather Conditions

Ducks are hardy creatures that can sustain cold temperatures, heavy rain, and extreme winds. Sometimes they may adapt to the weather conditions.

Ducks need to keep their bodies at a certain temperature, and if the weather becomes too cold, they may go into hypothermia. During winter, they often huddle together, if they haven’t migrated.

When the weather is extremely hot, ducks need to cool down. They’ll stay in the water for the most part during these times.

ducks in iceberg

Where Do Ducks Go in High Wind?

While ducks can sustain heavy wind conditions, there comes a point where it’s too windy for them. As the wind picks up in speed, they’ll look for protected areas, such as river banks.

Where Do Ducks Go In the Rain?

Ducks are waterfowl, meaning they spend most of their time around water. Hence, rain doesn’t affect them much. They thrive in water, especially in areas that have been flooded.

Ducks also have study outer feathers which protect them against rain. They can secrete a special oil, preen oil, which they use to waterproof themselves.

duck in the rain


Ducks spend most of the time sleeping in the water, but may also sleep on land. When they sleep on land, they’ll stand on one leg to preserve more heat. They can also sleep with just one half of the brain, allowing for continued visual vigilance and movement.

Ducks don’t sleep for long periods of time, but rather take shorter naps throughout the day.


Do Ducks Sleep Outside at Night?

Yes, ducks sleep outside. They either do this in water or on land. They’re very hardy creatures and can sleep outside in very cold temperatures, in rain, or in wind. They may seek shelter or protection if the conditions are too harsh.

Where Do Ducks Go at Night to Sleep?

Ducks will either go to their nest to sleep or go in the water. When sleeping in water, they’ll rest their head on their chest or their back, while they’ll sleep on one leg on land.

What Do Ducks Sleep in at Night?

Ducks will either sleep in their nest on land, or they’ll sleep in the water.

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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