Where Do Eagles Sleep?

Eagles are magnificent creatures that capture our imagination with their swift flight, impressive aerial displays, and fierce hunting abilities. While other animals have snug dens and cozy burrows, we only ever seem to see eagles flying or occasionally perching on a branch. Such mythical creatures still need to sleep, though, and few people consider where eagles sleep. 

Eagles sleep perched on branches of trees. During the nesting season, the perch will be near the nest. When incubating eggs and caring for young, one of the eagle parents will sleep in the nest.  During migration, eagles may roost together in one tree, returning to the same tree or area every year.   

Sleep is essential for all humans, animals, and birds. Eagles have a high metabolic rate and need the energy and cell rejuvenation supplied by rest. They may look like they are constantly alert, but eagles have downtime just like we do. 

Do Eagles Sleep In Trees?

Eagles prefer to sleep on branches of tall trees. Bald eagles and harpy eagles are more than three feet tall. Bald eagles weigh approximately ten pounds, and harpy eagles weigh thirteen to twenty pounds. If you think about how big the eagles are, it is easy to understand that the trees need to have large, strong branches to provide roosting for eagles.  

Eagles have wingspans that can be more than six feet. Trees must have widely spaced branches to provide enough room for the eagle to take off and land without injuring themselves on adjacent tree limbs.  

Do Eagles Prefer Certain Types Of Trees?

The eagle species and their habitat determine preferred trees for roosting. Bald eagles prefer conifers and mainly white pine trees. If they are not available, then they will use hardwood trees. 

Harpy eagles live in South American jungles and prefer Kapok, Brazilian nut, or Cambara trees. These are gigantic trees that form the forest’s upper canopy, making ideal perches for Harpy eagles. 

African Crowned eagles like to use indigenous trees such as the Waterboekenhout tree. Eucalyptus trees are also used for night roosting. 

Madagascar Fish eagles like to use deciduous trees rather than evergreens for their night-time sleeping places.  

Is Tree Position Important For Where Eagles Sleep?

Trees need to be easily accessed by wide corridors to make allowance for the wingspan of the eagle. It will be difficult for eagles to roost in forest areas with a high density of trees, making take-off and landing difficult.

Fish eagles prefer to roost in trees that are within close range of large lakes or dams. Generally, most eagles will be more commonly found sleeping in areas with a nearby water source.  

Do Eagles Sleep With Other Eagles?

Eagles often have communal roosting trees. Certain species, such as bald eagles, are more likely to roost with other eagles. Some eagles are solitary but will still sleep huddled up with other eagles of the same species during cold winter nights. 

Migrating eagles very often sleep in communal roosting trees. Scientists have noted that eagles will use the same tree to sleep in every time they relocate. In these roosting trees, you may see eagles of different species on the same roosting tree. 

Although the birds migrate separately, they seem drawn to each other at night. It is possible to see hundreds of eagles roosting in adjacent trees.  Sometimes they will even fly many miles out of their way to reach a communal roosting tree for the night. 

Do Eagles Sleep On Cliff Ledges?

Eagles are divided into those that roost and nest in trees and those that use rocky outcrops on cliffs as their nesting and night perches. 

Golden eagles prefer cliff roosts whether they are in America or Europe. Verreaux’s eagles from Africa are also eagles that prefer high rocky outcrops. 

Do Eagles Sleep In Nests?

Eagles sleep in nests during nesting season and when they are raising their young. This is necessary to incubate the eggs and keep the chicks warm. Typically, only one parent sleeps in the nest. It is usually the female, but male eagles sometimes take turns sleeping on the nest, doing their part in the parenting process. 

The other eagle parent perches on a nearby rock or tree branch. They prefer to be close by if the eggs or babies need protection. 

Where Do Eagles Make Their Nests?

Eagles’ nesting sites vary among the species. Some prefer trees, and some prefer high mountainous cliffs. Eagle nests are so large that a person could easily sleep in one. They may be up to four feet deep and five to six-foot-wide and shaped like a bowl.

Eagles have the same preferences for nesting sites as they do for roosting sites. These sites are usually in very high trees. One of the highest eagle tree nests is the Harpy eagle nest at ninety to one hundred and forty feet (27 to 43 meters) above the ground.

Why Do Eagles Choose High Places To Sleep?

Eagles choose to sleep on high tree branches or cliff faces for several reasons. They are less likely to be attacked by any predators in these high places. The height also allows them to spend time surveying the area below for prey in the morning when other animals and birds are active.  

Thermals are upward draughts of air caused when the earth heats up during the day. Eagles wait until thermals begin rising before taking flight for the day as it allows them to conserve energy.  

Do Eagles Fall Off Trees When They Sleep?

Eagles do not fall off trees or ledges when they sleep. When the eagle lands on a perch, flexor tendons in the legs, feet, and toes lock into position with the toes firmly clenching the branch. The tendons only unlock when the bird straightens its legs.  Their feet do not go numb as they have limited blood supply to the feet, and it is not compromised in their sleeping position. 

Conclusion

Next time you are wrapped up in your bed, think of the eagles – sleeping on their feet, with their toes firmly grasping a branch or piece of stone on a cliff edge. One of the eagle parents may enjoy the comfort of a nest when they are breeding. One sure thing is that the eagle’s morning view probably beats the view from your bed.