If you’ve ever observed the beauty of a swan swimming at your favorite pond, you may be surprised to learn that they look nearly as graceful while sleeping as they do when they’re awake. So, how do swans sleep, you ask? Where do they sleep, and do they prefer to sleep at night or during the day? Keep reading as we explore the answers to all of these questions.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Swans Sleep?
Swans are pretty versatile when it comes to their sleeping habits–they can sleep both on land and in water. This serves them well especially during the colder part of the year, as many swans migrate to warmer locations and may not always be able to find a suitable pond for sleeping at each stop along their journey.
Swans appear to prefer sleeping in the water, as floating is a natural and comfortable position for them. On land, they are more exposed and are not able to feel the approach of predators as easily as they do in the water.
Even when sleeping in the water, they usually stick fairly close to shore. The waters here are shallower and have more food readily available for when they wake up hungry.
Baby swans, or cygnets, sleep in their nest on the shore for a few days after they are born. One or both of the parents will stay with them during this time.
Once they are old enough to swim, the cygnets join their parents in the water, sometimes sleeping on their parents’ backs until they learn to sleep while floating. Sometimes, groups of swans will sleep together, positioning their babies toward the center of the group to keep them safe.
How Do Swans Sleep?
Swans can sleep in a couple of different positions.
When floating in the water, they tend to sleep with their long neck folded across the back and their beak tucked under a wing. This position allows them to float freely and relax while also letting them remain alert for vibrations in the water that could signal approaching predators.
When sleeping on land, they typically assume a similar position with the neck folded back and the beak tucked under one wing; but they do this while balancing on one leg. The other leg is tucked up under their feathers.
This position allows them to conserve body heat. To keep themselves even warmer, swans will puff out their feathers while sleeping (regardless of position) to create a thicker layer of insulation against the cold.
Much as humans may shift and roll around in bed, swans may sleep in different positions at different times. Sometimes they prefer sleeping in the water, sometimes on land, and still other times while balanced on one leg in a few inches of water at the pond’s edge.
Check out some of the different sleeping patterns displayed by the swans in this video:
Do Swans Sleep in the Day or at Night?
Swans are mostly diurnal, which means they receive much of their rest at night. That said, they do occasionally take naps during the day as well.
Simply put, swans sleep when they feel like sleeping and are awake when they feel like being awake. Though the majority of their sleep comes during nighttime hours, some of it also comes from afternoon naps taken in between eating and swimming.
Swans tend to get more sleep in the winter than they do in the spring and summer months. This is because there may be less food available in the winter, so they must conserve their energy by spending more of their time asleep.
What’s more, they are better able to conserve their body heat while sleeping. As mentioned above, they puff out their feathers and fold one of their legs up into their body while sleeping; both of these actions reduce their overall heat loss.
If the weather gets too cold, they will not be able to find enough food and may not be able to conserve their own body heat sufficiently to keep them alive; hence, they will migrate to warmer climates.
They don’t have well-defined migratory routes and don’t travel specific distances; they simply go as far as they need to go to reach areas that are warm enough to keep them from freezing to death. Once they have reached their destination, they will sleep away much of the winter before returning to their home once the weather begins to warm up.
Swans sleep in water or on land, with their beak tucked underneath one of their wings and their body feathers fluffed for warmth. When sleeping on land, they do so while standing balanced on one foot; the other leg is folded up into the body to keep it warm.
Baby swans, or cygnets, sleep in the nest for a few days before joining their parents in the water. They will often sleep on a parent’s back while in the water until they learn how to sleep while floating.