What A Vitamin D3 Deficiency Feels Like…

The cold weather here in the northern hemisphere will soon be upon us. This means that time spent in the aviaries and trips outdoors with the family will be limited for our birds. This also means that they will be getting less of the healthy benefits derived from time in the sun.

Sunshine, which is converted to Vitamin D3 in the bodies of all creatures, is responsible for the absorption of calcium. Therefore, sunshine plays a huge role in the development and maintenance of  bones, teeth, beaks, hair, fur  and feathers. It is an essential ingredient to a healthy life. But did you know that a lack of it also causes depression?

I have always suspected that the depression that occurs in so many around the holidays is a result of a lack of vitamin D. During the winter, we are often holed up indoors for months and are depleted in this area. When we add to that the financial and social stresses of the holidays, some people simply feel down.

Recently, after months of not feeling “right”, I went to my doctor for a physical. She asked me to describe my symptoms: moodiness, achiness, fatigue to the point of lethargy, sleeplessness, feelings of anxiety, difficulty coping with normal stresses. I felt both physically and emotionally overwhelmed and drained.

Anyone who knows me describes me as a person who is happy, active and full of energy, and here I was feeling like the world the beating me up and not understanding why. My doctor suggested that before we break out the anti-depressants, we should eliminate the medical possibilities. Blood work determined that my Vitamin D levels were very, very low and could account for every symptom I was having.

In parrots, deficiencies in vitamin A and calcium seem to be predominantly noted . But lack of exposure to sunshine is also a vitamin deficiency. There are an alarming amount of captive parrots that get NO exposure to natural or full spectrum lighting. My recent personal experience has left me wondering how many of our parrots are suffering in the same way I was. If the symptoms to a physical malady only present themselves emotionally, how are we to know that  something is wrong with our parrot?

The best thing we can do, besides watching for signs of depression, is to practice prevention. With winter bearing down on us, we should be sure that in lieu of outdoor activities, our birds are subjected to proper UVB lighting while they are in their cages and D3 supplements offered to those most at risk for this depletion.

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.



To Carla, Please know that your " 8 × 4 picture window with plenty of sunshine" will not provide your parrots with the full spectrum lighting they need. Full spectrum light rays cannot permeate regular glass. It filters out many of the light spectrums. You will need a full spectrum light source inside your home. Respectfully, Patti


I agree wit this article a 100%. I live in the San Juan Mountain in Colorado and we are in a canyon on top of it. It’s daylight outside but we have to wait 2 extra hours because of the enclosing canyon walls around us, before sunlight actually hits our garden and house. I tend to get depressed in winter myself. I adopted 2 Congo African Grays in April and they have not experienced this winter here yet. I think though that both their cages are located on a huge 8×4 picture window and they do get sunshine there a plenty. I hope that will be sufficient enough for them to make it through the winter month here. If not I will have to get those UV lights you are talking about. Thanks for all the tips, Carla


Nel, Coffs Harbour, NSW My tiels this winter were subdued and ‘sitting’ a lot. Gave them more flight freedom and they went straight to the window sill, even though that was the coldest spot in the house. (House temp. 21 degrees.)I will now take them outside for their UV light. Does anyone know if 16 degrees would be too cold for them to be outside?


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