One day, a bird flew inside my house. I locked the door. It landed on my TV and then I turned off the light. Then I touched the bird and it didn't even to try to fly or move.

Then I went to the kitchen and turn on the light, and suddenly it flew into the kitchen.

Why won't birds move an inch in total darkness?

  • $\begingroup$ The bird could have walked on the TV but it didn't know where the edge was, and walking would have made it easier to see for a predator. If it had flown, there is no way it could have seen safely where it was landing. Walking and landing at flying speeds are different things. Turn the lights off on a bird, you give it an sensory sequence of events that it's ancestors hadn't experienced from 100 million years, other than flying in a cave perhaps. $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2018 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ @com.prehensible I made some changes to my question. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2018 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ in a birds mind is a very weird place, very many weird scenarios exist. perhaps it's ability to panic is overridden if it's in the dark. also perhaps birds don't have any night time predators. he perhaps instantly switched to night mode and felt safe. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2018 at 22:30

1 Answer 1


Most birds are diurnal and have vision adapted for daylight. Vision is among the most important senses for most birds, so much so their eyes have evolved to be quite large -- much larger than human eyes, proportionally to body size. In order to have excellent daytime vision, many birds also sacrifice some of the cells in the retina that allow for dim lighting conditions. (These photoreceptor cells are called rods and cones; cones are responsible for color perception while rods are more sensitive in dim lighting. Diurnal birds can have a lower percentage of rods than other animals adapted for nocturnal activity.)

Falconers have been exploiting this trait for millennia, by using a hood, diurnal birds of prey calm down in darkness.

Falconer Hood

Owls are a great example of a bird that can see in very dim lighting conditions, though they can't necessarily see in total darkness. They also rely on acute asymmetrical hearing in order to pinpoint prey in extremely dark conditions.

Your avian visitor likely can't see in dim conditions in which you can still see. To avoid injury, birds will hold still and wait for light.


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