Where Do Seagulls Sleep at Night? Solved

True to their name, seagulls are commonly found in close proximity to the sea seeking out their next meal. But after a day full of activity on the wing, where do seagulls sleep at night?

They need shelter and security, so let me explain where seagulls rest up and roost when the sun goes down.

Where Do Seagulls Sleep?

They can sleep both on the water and inland. However, seagulls are very adaptive and can be found in a variety of habitats, including nesting on high perches in both urban and rural environments. As long as they are safe from predators, they will sleep almost anywhere.

Seagull Sleeping Habits

Seagulls are mainly diurnal, which means they sleep at night and are awake during the day. They arise at sunrise and gather in large flocks to roost for the night. This is true for all gull species, except the swallow-tailed gull. It feeds on aquatic organisms that are active during the night, so it forages at that time. 

Often, gulls can be seen napping during the day. They are known to nap after feeding and during migration, which is an energy-intensive activity. 

Seagulls are sociable and gregarious animals that sleep in large flocks. Gulls located at the peripheries of the roost remain half awake, in order to detect predators and alert the rest of the roost. Communal sleeping helps the gulls keep them safe from predators since they do not roost in trees like most bird species. 

Open areas and locations with good vantage points are the favored sleeping habitats for gulls. These types of habitats provide them with good views of oncoming predators. They are not fussy sleepers and will sleep in a variety of locations, as long as they are fairly safe from predators. 

Seagulls return to the same locations year after year to breed. During the breeding season, they establish colonial territories, so nest and sleep in the same locations every night. 

Where Do Inland Seagulls Sleep at Night?

Despite seagulls being associated with the coast, they are abundant in a variety of habitats. Many gulls sleep on sandy or rocky beaches. Others reside further inland, where the fields and pastures make great sleeping locations. 

Seagulls are commonly seen in urban locations such as towns and cities. Urban areas generally have lots of tall buildings, which make excellent places to roost, as they are great vantage points. 

Seagull napping on a chimney
Seagull napping on a chimney during the day
Credit: Paul Buckingham by CC 2.0

Places That Seagulls Sleep

Seagulls are highly adaptive and can occupy a vast range of habitat types. Seagulls, hence, their name, are most frequently observed around the coast, where their iconic vocalization can be heard all around. 

A number of locations are used by seagulls to sleep. These include beaches, sandbars, pastures, and coastal fields. Additionally, they often sleep on rocks, cliffsides, and urban buildings. Many gull species will also sleep on the water of the ocean, lakes, and large reservoirs. 

A large majority of bird species roost in trees, which make great locations due to being fairly safe from predators. Seagulls, however, do not frequent trees as their feet are webbed and not adapted for perching.

Instead, gulls roost in other locations that provide vantage points. These include roofs, tall building tops, chimneys, piers, and oil tankers. They will also sleep in their nests, which they build on sand dunes and sea cliffs. 

Where Do Seagulls Sleep in Winter? 

Seagulls are a highly migratory species. They fly in large flocks, traveling thousands of miles every year, to overwinter in warmer locations. Different species of gulls will migrate to different locations.

European gulls migrate to Africa and the Middle East. North American gulls travel to Central and South America. Asian gulls fly to South Asia. 

Where Do Seagulls Sleep in Summer?

The breeding season for seagulls is over the spring and summer months. Although they are a highly social species, they become territorial during the breeding season. They are very protective of their nests, eggs, and young. Breeding gulls sleep on or very near their nests.

Gull on its nest
Gull on its nest on top of a roof
Credit: Partonez by CC 4.0

Where Do Seagulls Sleep When It Rains?

Although they are seabirds and don’t mind getting wet when it’s raining gulls prefer to take shelter. They will sleep in locations that provide as much cover as possible. These include under-tree canopies or buildings. 

If the sea is too rough and it’s too windy, gulls will avoid sleeping on the water. Instead, they will venture inland and find a calmer and more sheltered location to sleep.

How Do Seagulls Sleep?

Seagulls sleep in two main positions: either sitting on the ground or standing on one leg. Gulls, like many birds, are able to practice unihemispheric sleep. This means they can switch off one side of their brain, whilst keeping the other side awake and alert. 

This is beneficial for detecting predators. They also take unihemispheric naps during the day. They will often open and close their eyes when they are sleeping or napping. 

Why Do Some Seagulls Sleep on One Leg?

When sleeping on the ground, seagulls tuck both their legs under their body and their head around their wings. Alternatively, they will tuck one leg up to their belly and use the other to stand. 

Both these positions are used to conserve heat and minimize heat loss. Standing one on the leg also provides the additional benefit of helping the bird control its body temperature. When standing, they will alternate which leg is tucked and which is not. 

FAQ Where Do Seagulls Sleep at Night?