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Specialist Bird Lighting, a lot to Squark About!

John Courtney-Smith

Birds are simply amazing creatures, highly adapted to life in every way possible and of course with most having mastery over the ability to take flight. Yes, birds are indeed highly adapted in order to thrive within their habitats and in being so, many of these adaptations are linked more closely to the energy provided by our sun than some may realise.

The sun provides our world with light, but all light is energy which can be measured, and all energy is utilised in nature. After filtering by our protective atmosphere, the sun provides our world with energy directly from Ultraviolet-B right up through the spectrum into Infra-Red-B (and every other wavelength in-between). Ultraviolet as we know is both responsible for tanning and of course being the driving force behind the body of an animal (our own species included) being able to make, self-regulate and then use vitamin D3 within a natural, self-regulated and self-recycling way. It is the natural and self-regulated provision of D3 in the correct amounts within the body that then allow the assimilation, storage and use of minerals such as calcium.

Birds, have then taken this ability to a whole new level wherein they can utilise the natural UV to D3 process through the skin, but then also some species can benefit from the self-administration of oral D3 after the preening gland has been exposed to unfiltered natural sunlight. This is quite an amazing and indeed critical direction of natural development and one that allows us as keepers to understand just how vital the provision of both essential vitamins and minerals are to birds. Exposure to sunlight and in particular UV can also aid directly with both feather health and overall wellness.

Birds also use Ultraviolet to view the word. Having yet again undergone a critical adaptation, the eyes of many birds are able to see a kaleidoscope of colours that are far beyond the understanding of human perception. This ability or development change allows birds to more easily find food and water, but is also used to find and/or choose mates. Do you really think that monomorphic species to the human eye are indeed so to birds? I sincerely believe not and indeed specialist UV photography has proven so for a great number of species already.

Allowing a bird access to the energy of the sun directly and without filtering (glass/plastics) or indeed using highly specialised UV producing bird lamps will allow a bird to experience the natural benefits of full colour vision and will help to ensure the ongoing ability to make and use vitamin D3 and the ongoing mineral cycles. Specialist bird lamps, clearly marked with warnings for UV will not only help to increase overall wellness and condition, but they can also be used to inspire mate selection and breeding, lower stressors, decrease unnatural calling and add a very welcome layer of enrichment for birds kept within captivity inside.

Specialist lamps must be sought out and these should indeed be marked ‘full-spectrum+UV-B’ and hold the usual warning triangle for this. Do not mistake ‘full-spectrum’ household or artists lamps as they do not produce the correct spectrum. It is also not yet possible to provide a naturalistic spectrum for natural sunlight with LED tech. Fortunately it is now easy to find specialist bird lamps that do produce the correct spectrum and are correctly marked. They should be low energy and with a low running cost and remain flicker free. Specialist bird lamps should be used for a full photoperiod per day, whilst allowing the bird to find areas of shade if it desires. The lamp should then be replaced every 12 months for the Arcadia Bird range. Arcadia released their first full-spectrum+UV-B lamp in 1999 after a long period of R&D and have continued to refine both tech and function ever since.

A greatly expanded review of bird lighting has been printed within the Parrot Society journal over 5 parts.


Practical points from specialist avian vet Tariq Abou-Zahr: 

  • All indoor birds should be provided with a UV light as this is important for their health and glass in windows filters out UV!

  • Birds should be under a lamp for at least 4 hours a day, but if in an enclosure for longer, it can be provided for the whole day (10-12 hours) 

  • All birds should be provided with a UV gradient, so should have a shaded area/ability to escape from the UV light if they want to! 

  • For more information about UV light, consult your manufacturer's instructions, or speak to your avian vet 

This page has been kindly sponsored by Arcadia

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