Full Spectrum Lighting: Healthy And Enriching

Sunlight Is Crucial For Your Parrot. John Borthwick/ Getty Images

Birds need sunlight which provides them the means necessary to produce Vitamin D. It’s quite interesting how they absorb the vitamin. There is a gland at the base of the tail on many birds called the uropygial gland. It produces an oil which the birds use to preen their feathers. You will often see your bird rub her face on the base of the tail after stimulating it a bit with her beak. She’ll then rub her face and beak on her feathers rapidly brushing her face back and forth to distribute the oil.

When this oil is exposed to the sun, certain chemicals in the oil convert to Vitamin D. And when the bird preens again, she ingests the oil containing the vitamin. It’s actually a very efficient system.

The best way to provide your birds with Vitamin D is to simply expose them to sunlight. I’m pretty lucky in that I have a screened in porch which allows natural sunlight through the screen. My Greys get 20 minutes to a half an hour on the porch every day when the weather is sunny and fair. Each have their preferred time out on the porch. Pepper enjoys being out in the mornings right after breakfast. Nyla likes being out there in the early afternoon. Parker prefers the late morning. I think he made a “Whistle Buddy” friend with the neighbor across the street who whistles with him back and forth while he works on his yard. They’ve never met, but they do have some sort of friendly relationship.

My birds also seem to enjoy the time watching the wild quakers fly past screaming their heads off on the way to the beach and then back again to their roosts at dusk. They also have interesting conversations and and whistle volleys with other neighbors as well as people walking down the street five floors below.

I have toys out there on a perch but they are too engrossed with the activity going on outside to pay much attention to them. So not only are they getting their sun, their lives are bing enriched by the activity they are watching out in the world. 

If you don’t have a screened in porch, you can always use a small cage to bring out and place in the sun while you are working in the yard. Providing partial shade and water is a good idea while they are out there. Supervision is always a good idea anytime your birds are outside and unprotected even while in a cage. Accidents can happen and pet birds need to have someone around while they are outside. Better safe than sorry!

Some people have even built their own bird strollers. Called "Cageollers," these strollers are like regular stroller except that they come with a cage mounted on it instead of a seat. If you like walking for exercise, this is an idea ways to get that exercise and get your bird some fresh air and sunshine. This is enriching for your parrot and people seem to enjoy seeing a parrot out for a spin around the block!

During winter months and in times of recurrent rain and inclement weather you can always purchase a full spectrum light bulb and mount it by their cage.

Ensure the bulb specifically is marked “full spectrum.” There are some that are designed to mimic natural sunlight but do not display the full spectrum ultra violet rays that are found in the full spectrum type. They emit a very pretty and natural light but it simply isn’t going to do your bird any good. So be sure you are purchasing the correct bulb. Pet stores might carry them in the reptile aisle as reptiles benefit from full spectrum lighting as well. 

Read the directions carefully and place the light the distance from the cage that the manufacturer recommends. 

Providing your birds with sun is not only healthy for them, it can be enriching as well.