You Can’t Sneak Up on a Sleeping Bird

You cant sneak up on a sleeping bird - Chinstrap Penguin
Chinstrap Penguin Feeding Young Chick

Have you ever tried quietly approaching a bird that appeared to be sleeping? If you have, you were probably unsuccessful, especially if the bird was nesting. Researchers have discovered a design feature called “microsleeps” that may help explain why you can’t sneak up on a sleeping bird.

Researchers discovered this feature in chinstrap penguins in Antarctica. The Max Planck Institute in Germany, the Korean Polar Research Institute, and the Neuroscience Research Center in France conducted this research. They found that the chinstrap penguins nod off thousands of times daily but sleep for only four seconds each time.

The researchers attached brain wave sensors, so there is no question that the birds were sleeping. The short microsleep naps add up to roughly eleven hours a day. The birds are essentially awake all the time, protecting their eggs, their young, and their nests. To get accurate data, researchers chose Antarctica, where the Sun does not set during the breeding season. You can’t sneak up on a sleeping bird, but researchers haven’t determined if all birds practice microsleep or whether they do it when they are not nesting.

The more we learn about the creation, the more we appreciate the Creator who made all living things, giving them the necessary equipment to survive. Human technology is opening more and more doors of understanding to “the things God has made” (Romans 1:20). The complexity of systems that allow survival and safety for various animal species is another argument for rejecting the notion that life is the product of blind chance.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Smithsonian Magazine and National Geographic