I did a post about a year ago on full spectrum lighting. Since that time, some new information and findings have been brought forward. We are continually learning that our human solutions to our birds' problems are not always right on the money the first time around. This information is important to be aware of when we are choosing lighting and its positioning. Following are the best parts of a very helpful and informative thread I read on one of the many great bird boards out there in response to a member’s question:
Poster on Macaw Talk bird forum:
“I moved my fids to another part of my house for the winter. It is a little on the dark side. So… I decided to get some full spectrum lighting lamps, which I did. They are gooseneck lamps about 5′ tall and I have them mounted over their cages. The lights end up being about 6-8″ above the top of the cages, and shine down directly over the cage. No loose cords or anything they can bite etc. I made sure that everything is very safe. The spotlight is certainly on them. I find the lights very bright even though they are only 27 watts, and they don’t get very warm at all. But…. when should I turn them on and how long do I need to have them on for them?
I turned them on this morning, and found that they became very screamy and squawky, I only had them on for about 1 hour, and turned them off. My hubby wants me to find out more before we leave them on for any extended time. Thanks for all your help…J”
Response From Len, Macaw Talk Moderator:
“This is a subject still hotly debated. The intensity of light falls off inversely with the square of the distance from the source. In short, it loses power rapidly as you move from the bulb. In order for it to be effective in helping the bird’s body manufacture Vitamin D it has to be close, within a few inches. Often close enough that it becomes a hazard to beaks and toes. Even disallowing that they are like the UV tubes used in tanning beds. You’ll notice salons change their bulbs every few months. This is because while the visible light output doesn’t change significantly in only 3 months, the UV output falls off rapidly and drastically..and that’s the portion of the spectrum responsible for Vit D production. Notice also, that salons make you wear blinders when that close to UV light. There have been repeated reports of bird developing cataracts and blindness after prolonged exposure to full spectrum light. My PERSONAL opinion as the risks outweigh the potential benefits. Instead I would opt for full spectrum florescent or daylight type florescent lights like shop lights, several feet above the cages. They can be timed to coincide with dawn and dusk for the psychological effect. Vitamin D can be had in a good, well rounded diet.”
Response from original poster:
“Thanks!! Below is what I bought – to me it looks like florescent light and bright white actually a little on the glare side than my regular house lamps, I have never used a tanning booth but I believe that light is on the blue side?
“high-tech 27-watt bulb, with a C.R.I.(Color Rendering Index) of 80-85, gives as much light as an ordinary 150-watt bulb
bulb can last up to 5000 hours, 5x longer than other bulbs- for years of normal use
The Kelvin temperature is 6500K
The bulb gives off 1300 LUMENS and simulates outdoor sunlight, which is balanced across the entire spectrum of color visible to the human ”
IYHO, do you think I should send them back? I, of course, do not want to do any harm to my fids…. Thanks”
Sandy, Macaw Talk Admin:
“All I can add are Kudos to Lens post. I have heard for years that the light source needed to be within 6” to do any good. Results, birds with cataracts as Len mentioned.
When we used them in the garage after just moving up here and housed the birds inside as it was winter we put them up. However, it was on the ceiling in fixtures which were about 3-5 feet above the cages.
I also did open the garage doors (large door and side) for most of the day for light, and a good air change. The lights were on timers.
I have read that after a few months that the UV as Len stated is diminished greatly. However, I know myself and others used them much longer than a couple of months and all was fine. Diet? I do not know. I do know that if in doubt I would mount them on the ceiling where the birds are not under a spot light and make them more easily to get out of when needed.
I know that Don has said that he uses them. I know him well enough to know that he explored all the avenues quite well before purchase.”
“Those sound like “daylight” replacement bulbs, not actually “full spectrum” (full spectrum includes UV, virtually invisible to the naked eye). Frequencies approaching UV are in the blue/violet visible range, hence the tendency to think of “seeing” UV as blue/violet. If possible, I’d either back them off a bit or use them as indirect light, bounced off a white ceiling. Technically speaking, daylight is around 5500K (Kelvin). The common practice is for monitors to be calibrated to something approaching 6500K for a brighter blue-white look (which tends to screw us all up when trying to visually color correct digital images). That the birds seem more agitated than normal may be a reaction to the light actually being bluer than anything they’re likely to experience in nature. Plus, they don’t see the same spectrum we do so they may well be seeing things totally differently, further contributing to their unrest.”
As I mentioned, this is all up to date info from people who have immense knowledge about parrots and are very active in the avian community. I trust their opinions without hesitation.
This post is NOT intended to scare you away from using full spectrum lighting around your bird’s cage. Instead, it is meant to help you to consider better bulbs and safer positioning of the lamps you use. As mentioned, this and natural lighting are responsible for the production of vitamin D in the body, which directly affects calcium absorption. Without it, a bird is deficient in that area.
Further, this is yet another reason to try to get our birds as much natural sunlight as we can. That is the best solution to any lighting problems we might have. I know that not everyone can provide an outdoor aviary for their birds, but just 20 minutes of natural sunlight a few times a week is enough to keep your bird healthy and in good feather.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.