|Why UVA Lighting is Needed for Bird Cages
There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) lighting; UVA, UVB and UVC. UVA and UVB lighting is important for bird health. UVC lighting is normally filtered out by the earth’s ozone layer. From a human perspective we see light through the retinas in our eyes which have two types of cells – rods and cones. Rods help us see dim lightning and cones help us see primary colors. Humans are not able to see UVA lighting.
However birds are different. Birds have fewer rods in their eyes than humans, which is why it is difficult for them to see in dim lighting. However, they have an extra cone which enables them to see UVA lighting. Cones allow us to distinguish primary colors. A bird's extra cone and ability to see UVA lighting is important in to species recognition, mate selection and food selection. For example, a fruit will reflect different wavelength of light when it is ripe. Realizing the importance of UVA, Dr. Greg Burkett, DVM, of the Birdie Boutique in North Carolina states that, “without UVA, birds are experiencing a condition similar to color blindness in humans.”
Why UVB Lighting is Needed for Bird Cages
Like human’s UVB lighting is provides vitamin-D.But unlike humans whom received UVB through their skin, Birds create vitamin-D precursors when they preen their feathers. These vitamin-D precursors then convert to active vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB rays from ultraviolet light. The next time the birds preen, they ingest the vitamin D3 that is so crucial to their health. For example, vitamin D3 helps birds process calcium properly.
Health Benefits of UVA & UVB Lighting for Bird Cages
Proper lighting for bird cages and the bird's living environment is crucial from a health perspective. Here are just some of the positive impacts that lighting has on a companion bird's health:
- Proper processing of visual information
- Psychological comfort through the mimicking of the bird’s natural environment
- Stronger bones
- Stronger immune system
- Preparation for seasonal changes
- Better sleep
- Successful egg laying
Negative Impacts of Not Using UVA/B Lighting for Bird Cages
Conversely, not providing proper lighting has negative health consequences for avians of many types, chiefly caused by Vitamin D3 deficiencies including:
- Reproduction problems including soft egg shells and soft bones
- Bone deformities
So How Much Light is Necessary for Bird Cages?
Bird owners can ensure their birds are receiving the full benefits of UVA and UVB light by exposing them to natural outside light (or full-spectrum lights during the day). A bird’s specific light needs vary. Ideally owners should provide full-spectrum lighting 15-40 minutes per day, two – three times per week. Birds with appropriately clipped wings can be taken outside once the weather is warm enough, generally 65 degree F or above. Try to avoid excessively hot days. Adult African Greys birds tend to require more sunlight since they are particularly sensitive to calcium deficiencies.
During the winter months, the use of full-spectrum (UV) bulbs is a good consideration for your bird cage. Full-spectrum bulbs for bird cages should always be placed at the manufacturer’s recommended distance from the birds and changed at regular intervals. These lights are also helpful if owners are unable to expose their birds to natural outside lighting by moving their bird cages outside
Some bird owners choose to give their birds vitamin D supplements. Vitamin supplementation should be carefully monitored by a veterinarian since overdoses can lead to kidney damage or stunted growth. Each bird is different, for example it is known that some parrots, like Macaws, are particularly sensitive to vitamin D3 overdose.Seeking the guidance of a certified veterinarian in your area will help ensure proper practices.
Just like people, too much UV lighting can also be harmful to your bird.You may notice that birds (and most reptiles) are more sensitive to ultraviolet lighting as compared to humans and mammals. This is because most birds have thinner corneas and skin.Birds – just like people – are susceptible to cataracts and cancer overtime. Always follow manufacturer recommended specifications.
Using Accessories for Bird Cages to Control Light Exposure
There are a few sleep accessories for bird cages that can help owners control light exposure to help improve their birds’ health.While full-spectrum lights can help birds during the daytime by producing UV rays, simple accessories for bird cages like bird tents and appropriately used cage covers can help regulate the amount of any light that enters their cage, thus allowing birds to develop healthy sleep patterns.Bird tents can offer a place of seclusion for birds during the day and a comfortable place to sleep at night. They can also mimic nests that parrots create in the wild to hide from predators.
In a Nutshell: Light Control Checklist
1.Exposure to UVA lighting is important to bird sight while UVB lighting is important for Vitamin D
2.Proper lighting for bird cages is essential from a health perspective. In the summer, expose your bird to natural lighting 2 – 3 times per week for 15 to 40 minutes by getting them outdoors*. In winter months consider the benefits of artificial lighting
3.Priority one should be safety. Seek qualified advice regarding Vitamin supplements and always following manufacturer guidelines for artificial lighting.
4.Accessories like tents and bird cage covers can help promote the right lighting environment for your bird
*Use caution when taking birds outside so they don’t escape or harm themselves.If possible, consider rolling the bird cage outside with them in it.