Importance of Proper Lighting

Outdoor enclosures have the benefits of natural sunlight for their inhabitants. Indoor enclosures, however, are often in need of specialized lighting in order to gain some of those important benefits provided by the natural, outdoor light. The key to indoor lighting is to attempt to mimic the sun's natural lighting as closely as possible. Today, for practical purposes, this is best achieved through the use of "full-spectrum" fluorescent lighting and electric timers, or by placing the enclosure near a window which can be opened for part of the day each day year-round to allow unfiltered, natural sunlight to illuminate the cage. (Please note that in both outdoor and indoor enclosures, some shaded areas should be available at all times for the birds to retreat to at will.)
Fluorescent light

For indoor enclosures which do not have the luxury of being near a window which can be opened daily year-round, a full spectrum fluorescent bulb and timer may be purchased to aid in effective lighting. The timer should be set to turn on at sunrise and turn off at sunset. Periodically (about every 2-3 weeks) the timer may need to be adjusted as the day length seasonally changes.

Tip: If you reside in the United States, you can enter your 5-digit zip code in the form below. Clicking "Submit" will direct you to a page which reflects your local sunrise and sunset times on a month-by-month basis. Feel free to use this tool to help you adjust your timer properly.

U.S. Sunrise & Sunset Times
Your 5-digit zip:    

Using full spectrum fluorescent lighting to provide UV light is important for at least three main reasons:
  1. Its UV output allows the birds to manufacture vitamin D3,5 which is necessary for healthy bones and better productivity.
  2. Although humans cannot see UV light, birds can see certain UV wavelengths, and providing UV may alter their mate selection5 by allowing them to "better see" their cagemates.
  3. Some literature suggests that providing light which contains UV and is rich in the violet wavelengths may "balance the sexes" of offspring, resulting in clutches with more females. Red-rich, incandescent light, by contrast, tends to result in clutches with a higher ratio of males hatching out.

Placing the light on a timer to mimic natural changes in photoperiod is important for many reasons,5 including:
  • Light cycle (along with other factors including age, nutrition, weather, and hormones) influences a bird's molt.
  • Mimicking daylight patterns helps to create a more natural reproductive cycling by regulating gonadal function (triggered by hormone release), thereby stimulating breeding in most species of temperate-evolved Passeriformes.

Not all bulbs that claim to be full spectrum are equally desirable. When selecting a bulb to use for your birds, keep the following information in mind. First, be sure that you are purchasing a "full spectrum" fluorescent bulb and not a "broad spectrum" one (broad spectrum bulbs are suitable for plants, not birds). Second, note that fluorescent bulb output is measured by several different methods, including Color Rendering Index (CRI), Color Temperature, and brightness in Lumens. CRI is a measurement of a bulb's ability to render true colors. Values are based on a scale from 0-100 with higher CRI values reflecting better color rendering. Noonday sunlight on an overcast day (the conventional "measuring stick" that bulbs are based on) has a CRI value of 100, so bulbs with CRI values of 98 and above are most desirable. Color Temperature, or chromaticity, describes the "whiteness" of light and is measured in degrees Kelvin. Higher values indicate whiter light while lower values indicate more yellow light. Noonday sunlight has a color temperature of 5250 K, so look for a bulb that has a similar color temperature. Lastly, Lumens measure the brightness of light in candlepower, where each Lumen represents the brightness of one candle. Hagen™ Exoterra® Repti Glo 5.0 bulbs and Zoo Med ReptiSun 5.0 bulbs are examples of suitable full spectrum light sources, available online.
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