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by Diane Burroughs March 31, 2016 6 min read

Revised: January 26, 2022

What Exactly Are Bird Lights and What Do They Do?

In recent years, bird lights have become all the rage in the pet bird industry. From budgies to cockatoos, one of the top questions people ask about birds is whether or not their bird can benefit from a bird light. The short answer to this question is yes; here’s everything you need to know about bird lights and why they can help your feathered friend live a longer, healthier life.

Do birds need special lighting?

Many people assume that bird lights are not necessary, but they are dead wrong. Birds do need specific lighting in order to achieve their healthiest feathers possible; which makes bird lights a very important part of owning a bird. In fact, unless you have specially designed UV lighting for your birds, it is recommended that you keep their cage covered at all times to keep them safe from any potential predators lurking outside. Even if your cage is locked up tight, most predators can climb or fly into your house with ease.

Why use bird lights?

Birds need the UVA UVB lights to generate vitamin d 3 and keep their immune system healthy. Without it, they will become susceptible to diseases. This can lead to problems like kidney disease, calcium deficiency, and all kinds of bone and reproductive health issues. All of these require extensive vet care for a cure which can get expensive very quickly for most hobbyists (there’s no guarantee you won’t lose your bird). Keeping your bird healthy can help extend his/her life and enjoy them much more.

If you are able to locate where your aviary or cage is exposed to direct sunlight regularly then I recommend using natural sunlight for optimal vitamin D3 synthesis. However, if not then definitely consider using a light source that emits both UVA and UVB lighting. Be sure to do plenty of research on good brands with high-quality lighting units so that you don’t end up spending money on something that doesn’t work as well.

Also, birds rely on specific photoperiods to manage circadian rhythms and hormones. Artificial lighting can alter their hormonal balance which can affect breeding activity in adult birds as well as their ability to stay warm when outside of their nesting area. Keep in mind that if you use artificial light you will need to plan a cycle that gives your bird adequate time for rest (darkness) as well as making sure you have enough exposure (light) at other times of day for good health.

Peachy in his Sleep Cage

Peachy in his sleep cage

What kind of light do you use for birds?

Make your bird a happy camper with a Full Spectrum Bird Light Birds can benefit from full-spectrum lights in particular. When picking out a bird light, it is important to consider that the actual light needs to be between 2' and 3' away from the bird in order for the bird to obtain the benefits of the light.

Another thing to consider is whether the light has electrical cord protection. A parrot's sharp beak can cut right through an electric cord leaving it at risk of electrocution. Make sure to choose a model that has a steel cord protector.

The third factor is what type of bulb goes into your lamp. It should have flicker-free UVA UVB bulbs in order for your bird to receive all benefits from their environment including better health and emotional well-being. It should also contain daylight temperature-rated bulbs, which are between 5,000 and 6,500 Kelvin degrees in order for birds to achieve the biological balance required for them during their molt cycles as well as show enhancement in feather coloring.
Bulbs should be replaced at least annually.

Why do pet birds need UV light?

If you care for a pet bird, you likely already know that it needs proper nutrition to thrive. But did you know that pet birds also need ultraviolet (UV) light to stay healthy? That’s right: Pet birds need UV light just like humans do.

This UV light isn’t sunlight — but it is necessary for their bodies to produce vitamin D3 in their skin. Vitamin D3 helps calcium absorb into your bones, which keeps them strong. Plus, without enough vitamin D3, some pet birds can develop problems with bone structure or be susceptible to other health issues such as chronic egg laying or even seizures and cancer. It is also believed to prevent feather plucking.

According to Dr. Karen Becker, "The Harderian gland aids absorption of UV light into the retina and communicates with the pineal and pituitary glands to help regulate breathing, molting, and day/night cycles, as well as migration pattern." If you have a pet bird, you need to keep it safe: One way you can keep your pet bird safe is by using special bird lights that emit ultraviolet B (UVB) rays at both ends of its cage. With these lights on at all times when your pet bird is in its cage, it can produce essential vitamin D3 without ever having access to sunlight — ensuring strong bones for years to come.

Another issue 

Are LED lights OK for birds?

While there is a lot of conflicting information out there about what types of lights are OK for birds, my experience is that, for health benefits, your bird needs a full-spectrum light.  However, LED lights are great for lighting up the surrounding area of your bird cage, especially in the winter. 

Tips For Using And Maintaining A Bird Lamp

Like anything that you use around your pets, it is important to supervise your pet as it is getting used to the new bird light. Pets can react differently to different types of lighting, but with supervision, they will soon get accustomed to its presence. You also want to make sure your pet can't get to the electric cord.

Make sure to inspect your bird light at least weekly to see if your bird has begun chewing on the metal fixture or the cord. If it appears that they have, it is time to reposition the light or, in the case of chewing the cord, get a new one. You can get these inexpensively online or at your local pet store, so replacing one should not be an issue for you as a responsible pet owner.

What kind of schedule should I use with bird lights?

It is important to keep in mind that when birds begin their molting season you may need to adjust how much exposure they are getting from using the lamp, because they will be adjusting their own exposure by changing feathers once again after shedding old ones. Growing feathers is very nutrient intensive. Especially proteins, amino acids, and calcium. Vitamin D, supplied by the bird light helps your bird synthesize these nutrients to grow feathers.  You'll want to supply your bird with about 8 hours of light per day.  The easiest way to do this is to use an electric outlet timer.  There are some styles that work with Amazon Alexa while others can be manually set.

In conclusion, a bird light can be a helpful piece of equipment and will likely help your bird live a longer, healthier life.

Related Posts:

The Benefits of Bird Lights

How Much Sleep Does My Bird Need?

 References:

The Essential Nutrient Your Pet Could Be Lacking


Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #BirdStress #BirdSelfMutilation

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