How Caged Bird Keepers Get The Lighting Thing Wrong

How Caged Bird Keepers Get The Lighting Thing Wrong

The quality of light has little use for a captive bird.


It’s the light cycle that means everything.


Is lighting necessary to house parrots properly?


Are there any specific requirements with the lighting?


To be clear, the light coming into your home through it’s windows has little or no value to the bird in your cage.


Editor’s note: Home window glass strips all UVA/UVB from said sunlight


Recently, a regular customer of ours visiting the Birdie Boutique came in seeking solutions for her Congo African grey that a recently started plucking.


She had come in seeking vitamins or any other nutritional supplements that we could suggest to help shut down her birds feather self destruction.


When I hear this one of my first questions is, “how can we determine if there were any plucking triggers provided to the bird recently?”


She thought about it for a minute and related to me that the Congo grey lives with her mother and sister.


Editor’s note: There are two flavors of African grey, Congo and timneh. Timnehs can be 100 or more grams lighter than Congo’s coming in about the size of the largest of (Patagonian) conures


The sister thought that the bird would be more entertained by putting it in front of the big picture window rather than having the cage sit in the corner of the living room.


The 17-year-old bird who had been with the woman from post weaning days begun to pluck when the birdcage was moved in front of the large picture window.


I explained that birds don’t know the meaning of glass and although activities outside of the home can be entertaining to a bird there are many raptors like Peregrine falcons who populate the skies of Chicago especially in Hyde Park where she lived.


summer of 2014 mitchr & tommy 2-1/2 year old perigrine falcon


Hyde Park is also noted to have a huge Quaker parrot or monk parakeet population.


I advocated that the bird be moved back to the boring corner of the living room where it originally resided and full spectrum lighting be introduced.


This blog post will hopefully help you understand why I made that suggestion.


As a side note I suggested adding Prime powdered supplement to the birds diet because it was known to have a vitamin A deficiency.


We also talked about introducing Lafebers Avi Cakes so the powdered supplement can be sprinkled upon this very nutritious treat that is held together by molasses making it the perfect medium to introduce powdered supplement in that it is very sticky.


[videopress CK3qmcIt]


Full spectrum lighting will also help birds feather colors appear brighter.


Some birds feathers can actually reflect UV light (budgies for one) used for choosing a mate.


To understand the effects of lighting and birds you have to understand the anatomy of a bird.


All birds have a small gland called the pineal gland behind the right eye.


This gland acts as an input mechanism for light data.


All birds use this light coming into the pineal gland to help determine when to breed, molt and migrate.


The gland also contains many melatonin cells that vibrate like micro metronomes.


Although a bird cannot tell what day it is, it knows what time it is precisely as a Rolex because of these vibrating melatonin cells


99.9% of cage bird keepers get the lighting thing wrong.


The quality of light has little use for a bird.


It’s the light cycle that means everything.


I can’t tell you how many behavioral issues we have helped our customers birds simply by installing a full-spectrum bulb in a fixture, no more than 6 inches over the cage on a timer.


2 full spectru clamp on light over budgie aviary

Windy City Parrot’s budgie aviary


The distance is very important as a 15,000 LUX light bulb emits only 700 LUX at a 20 inch distance (Google “inverse square law of light”).


The timer needs to be set for 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.


The birds should be in the cage when the light comes on in the morning and goes off for the night.


This signals to the bird the beginning and the end of the day which is close to their instinctual expectations of equatorial light cycles.


We’ve also found great efficacy in stopping chronic masturbation and prolific egg laying in birds by using extended light cycles (72 – 168 hours) with no need for drugs (like Lupron or Haldon).


Feel free to fact check me with Dr. Gregory Harrison the creator of Harrison’s bird food.


The folks at HARI, the  Hagen Avicultural Research Institute who have housed about 250 breeding pairs of wild caught and domestic parrots for the past 30 years for use in development of the Hagen bird food line and testing of things like light cycles.


In conjunction with the folks at Ontario Veterinary College | University of Guelph HARI has determined the importance of artificial light cycles for birds and that light has no effect in the production of vitamin D3 in birds because of their integumentary system (feathers).


best of luck



Bill T had this to add about the birds and lighting discussion:

Attn: Mitchr

Something I passed over casually before in the “We got it wrong” blog on ‘full spectrum light’ just was noticed.

Info for more understanding,

I hope you include this if mentioned, in future articles.


“The pineal gland is photo-receptive in all non-mammalian vertebrates, but not in mammals.

The only non-visual photo-receptors in mammals are intrinsically photosensitive ganglion cells in the retina.

The parapineal and similar pineal-associated structures are only found in non-mammalian vertebrates.

(The quail’s light-sensing neurons are tucked within the paraventricular organ.)

The iris is intrinsically photo-receptive in non-mammalian vertebrates and perhaps in some mammals.

The locations of non-visual photo-receptors in the deep brain varies among the non-mammalian vertebrates. 

The fact is humans and most mammals have very similar if not identical NON-visual photo receptors to parrots and other Aves (The vertebrate class Aves includes the birds, an extremely distinctive and successful clade, with an estimated 9000 species worldwide, including the snowy owl), including our pineal gland, hypothalamus and non-visual retinal photo receptors (NOT rods and cones, as yet uncharacterized but proven to exist) which function in increasingly complex ways we are still discovering.

This is not a new discovery, though the complexity and depth of CNS light sensing non-visual organs and functions are obviously more than suspected or demonstrated earlier.

If you’d like to learn more about how birds and mammals interpret light, read:

Nonvisual photoreceptors of the deep brain, pineal organs and retina.

from the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health

Thank you Bill

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground.Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care.He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis.He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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  1. Hi Mitch,
    I have lights for my birds – African Grey, Goffins Cockatoo and Sun conure. I seem to have it wrong as far as schedule though! Usually I’ll uncover the birds, potty them individually and then just give them out of the cage time. Lots of cleaning but I enjoy their company. Then around noon I put them in their cages and turn on the lights till about 6pm. So I’m way off with the light schedule – if I leave the light on for 12 hours I wouldn’t get to spend much time with them. Also when the temp is right I put them outside and sit with them for a couple of hours. We also travel to the farm twice a week with them. A 1 1/2 hour trip. Cant wrap my head around the math for 12 hours of cage time! Any suggestions ?

    1. Hi Barbara

      light cycles are defined by 99 million years of “instinctual expectations”
      the majority of parrots are endemic to 40 minutes north (latitude) and 40 minutes south of the equator.

      it’s simply about “dont mess with mother nature.


      Mitch Rezman
      Windy City Parrot where the sun never sets empire Tel: 312-492-9673 Mobile: 773-848-0687
      Fax: 312-492-9674
      Address: 906 N Western Ave 60622

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