Lighting for birds

Full Spectrum UV Lighting

Ordinary “fittings” for full spectrum UV lighting will cause birds discomfort.

It is a basic welfare right that all captive creatures should receive regular exposure to day/sunlight. Captive birds are no exception to this rule. Ultraviolet sunlight activates the synthesis of vitamin D3, which is a prerequisite for the absorption of calcium and other minerals. If your bird receives regular exposure to day/sunlight and receives a healthy diet then you have no need to provide artificial full spectrum UV lighting or a special vitamin supplement of D3 with calcium – please do not use both of these aids together otherwise you run the risk of causing the bones to calcify. However, if you do use full spectrum UV lighting in replacement of vitamin D3 with calcium then please heed the following information relating to the use of correct and incorrect fittings for full spectrum UV lighting.

“Bird’s vision is very different from ours. Humans process about 16 images per second, so to us, fluorescent lighting appears to be ‘on’ continuously. It is not of course. Fluorescent lighting strobes at the voltage cycle rate (about 160 flashes per second). Birds would be capable of perceiving this. The equivalent effect for humans would be to live under lighting which flashed 12-16 times per second. You’d probably experience considerable discomfort with such strobe effects, so it is more than likely that the birds may well do so.” Greg Glendell.

The fluorescent lighting situation is very concerning and one can only imagine how many birds live with them. It is an easy mistake to make. Not all full spectrum lighting is the same or provides any benefits, however, it’s not the full spectrum lighting tube or bulb that causes the flickering problem but rather the fixture that the tube or bulb sits in. The culprits are the old fashioned fluorescent fixtures with a coil instead of a plate, which are still commonly sold today.

New Life Parrot Rescue & Helpline Service also delved into this and would like to inform people who use these types of lighting and do not have the correct fitting/holder that it needs replacing with an electronic ballast, rather than the traditional magnetic ballast. The electronic ballast fitting eliminates the flickering that would naturally cause birds’ discomfort. You will most probably be able to acquire them at a small electrical outlet within your local area.

We purchase our UV fluorescent tubes from Arcadia but have to buy the electronic ballast fitting elsewhere, however, we occasionally use Arcadia’s compact bird lamp, which has its own electronic ballast built into the base of the lamp, and so there is no flickering in which to cause birds’ any discomfort.

To investigate your existing fitting, be sure to unplug your fixture from the electrical wall socket or you risk lethal electrocution.

Take the back cover off of the fixture. You will see two wires attached to the switch and on the other end, a square metal box. If you have copper coiling, the copper wire (coiling) will look like a neatly wrapped square spool of thread and it will sit inside a metal box. A metal plate will most likely cover the metal box so you will need to lift the plate up to see inside the box. You will probably find a “spool” of copper wire. This spool of copper wire will have a protective coating covering it so it may appear solid, however, if you look closely you will see that it is finely wrapped copper wire. If it’s not there you will only see a flat metal plate. This is the fixture that is supposed to be the “good” fixture for your birds.

Appropriate lighting for birds

As mentioned, not all spectrum lighting or bulbs should claim to provide “natural sunlight” as some do not provide anymore benefits for birds than an average light bulb. This is another area that needs further clarification in the avian care world. Unfortunately, some companies who sell full spectrum lighting and natural sunlight lamps are misleading the consumer to the actual benefits. Therefore it is wise to obtain special “full spectrum light” from a company who specifically deals with avian, reptile and amphibian lighting.