When a friend moved to Colorado from Southwest Florida, her birds went along and appeared to be fine until her male Eclectus parrot began to go bald. Another friend, who lived in New York, complained that her Vasa parrot’s feathers were gradually turning white. When I moved from New York to Florida, my Amazon parrots became noisier than ever, and my pair of Senegal parrots became interested in breeding. All these changes were related to the amount and intensity of daylight available to the birds. The birds in the north were suffering from the lack of natural, intense daylight, while my birds were stimulated by the sub-tropical Florida sunshine.
Have you ever noticed how tired a houseplant looks after a few months in a dim corner? How do you feel during winter’s shortened daylight hours? Many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., a feeling of depression and general despondency associated with winter’s abbreviated daylight hours. Birds are affected by light, too.
Natural light is required for your bird’s feather condition, breeding success and the synthesis of Vitamin D. Some people have credited supplementary, full-spectrum lighting with stopping feather plucking. Birds in outdoor aviaries get all the natural light necessary to convert the Vitamin D in their food to its chemically active form, Vitamin D3. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, but it can be toxic if overfed. Indoor birds, deprived of bright, natural, unobstructed (even by window glass) light may need a vitamin supplement or diet containing Vitamin D3 and a source of full-spectrum, artificial lighting. (Check with your vet before incorporating vitamins and supplements into your bird’s diet; supplements may be inadvisable if your bird is eating pellets.)
What is "full-spectrum" lighting? By adding colors to the gases in the fluorescent tubes, more colors of the "spectrum” are emitted by the lights. "Full-spectrum" is the term used to describe lights that emit colors, including ultra-violet, that are found in actual sunlight. It is the ultra-violet light that activates Vitamin D.
There are no standards for exact amounts of ultra-violet light required by pet birds, but they seem most sensitive to wavelengths between 350 and 700 nanometers. Although it not an exact science, increasing the hours of artificial, full-spectrum lighting by 30 minutes per day, up to a maximum of 16 hours, often stimulates breeding behavior and egg production, while shortening the hours of light may reduce undesired egg laying. Under normal, non-breeding conditions, most birds will benefit from 3 to 4 hours of artificial sunlight daily.
The recommended distance of the lamp from your bird will depend on the wattage of the light. Contact individual light manufacturers, and your avian veterinarian for specific advice. In addition to health benefits, full-spectrum, fluorescent lighting is very economical. It uses less electricity than incandescent lighting, and it enhances your bird’s colors beautifully!
Not all supplementary lighting is recommended for use with timers or dimmers. Consult packaging information or call the manufacturer for information on specific bulbs/tubes.
Find out more about birds and the importance of light.
Your Pet Bird Needs Light & Sleep
The Components Of Light