Where Do Birds Sleep At Night? // Ask the Bird Experts

Our bird experts answer your questions about where birds sleep, spotting uncommon birds in winter, and more!

Where do birds sleep at night? Is it normal to see an oriole in winter? What is this weird bird in my backyard?!

Each month, Birds & Blooms readers send in their burning questions to birding experts, Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman, who are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world.

Got a bird question for Kenn and Kimberly? Submit your questions here! They may appear here or in a future issue of the magazine.

Question: Where do birds sleep at night, and where do they go during a storm? —Linda Broen of Mendocino, California

Kenn and Kimberly: Wild birds are good at finding shelter. Those that raise their young inside holes in trees, such as woodpeckers and bluebirds, often sleep in such cavities at night, at all times of year. Other kinds of birds find protected spots inside dense foliage in trees, shrubs or vines. They may perch close to the trunk on the downwind side. Birds that live out in open fields or shores may simply hunker down where they are, facing into the wind. During stormy weather birds usually go to the kinds of spots where they sleep at night, or make an extra effort to find an even more sheltered place. (Read more: Helping Birds in Winter)

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A Baltimore oriole is perched on a branch.photo credit: Tony Wenzel (B&B reader)
photo credit: Tony Wenzel (B&B reader) Baltimore oriole

Question: A Baltimore oriole visited our yard in November or December for the past three winters. It ate jelly, cut oranges, and seed from a ground feeder. Should that bird have been somewhere else? —Lori Ann O’Shaughnessy of Marlboro, New Jersey

Kenn and Kimberly: Yes, you’re right, most Baltimore orioles migrate to the tropics—or at least to the subtropical edges of the southern United States—for the winter. But during the last couple of decades, increasing numbers have been staying through the winter in the states east of the Appalachians, from Georgia north to New England. The abundance of bird feeders in the region seems to have made the difference. Apparently Baltimore orioles can survive cold winters as long as they find enough food. (Read more: How to Attract Baltimore Orioles)

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White-throated sparrow rests on branch.photo credit: Susan Prewitt (B&B reader)
photo credit: Susan Prewitt (B&B reader)

Question: What kind of sparrow is this? —Susan Prewitt of Mount Pleasant, Texas

Kenn and Kimberly: This is a white-throated sparrow, evidently puffed up against the cold. Clues to its identity include the small white throat patch, the yellow in front of the eye, and the rich reddish-brown on the shoulder and wing. Some white-throated sparrows have bold stripes of white and black on the head, while others (like this one) have stripes of tan and dark brown. People used to think that the tan-striped birds were young ones, but that’s not necessarily true. About half of all adult white-throated sparrows, both males and females, are tan-striped for life.

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.