I Am Conflicted About Artificial Lights for Birds ~ Help

I Am Conflicted About Artificial Lights for Birds ~ Help

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

David K. is conflicted:

I am conflicted about what I read about artificial lights for birds.

I have cockatiels.

My avian vet says to be careful about such lighting which can damage a bird’s eyes (retina).

My vet has had first-hand experience with this.

I currently use ZooMed Avian sun lamps, overhead.

These, as you know, are full-spectrum, BUT THEY ARE FLUORESCENT, which I’ve read is a problem for birds due to the difference in perceived flicker rates.


The placement is about 18″ above the birds.


My cockatiels will occasionally seek the shady part of their cage where I leave part of the nighttime covers hang.


That shady area is towards the back of the cage, against a wall.


They seem to feel secure with a wall towards the rear.


Even when they are playing outside their cage, they are rarely out in the middle of the room.


They like playing around the perimeter of the room.


But, I am not sure about incandescent flood bulbs.


‘Sorry for my rambling.


Have you heard about artificial lighting – fluorescent or incandescent – damaging the eyes of caged birds?


I wonder why I have never heard about wild birds having their eyes hurt by natural sunlight?


Thank you!


You’ve answered your own question, Michael, when you asked “I wonder why I have never heard about wild birds having their eyes hurt by natural sunlight?


Lighting is highly beneficial to pet birds while damaging veterinarians’ revenue.


Drugs like Lupron ~ for excessive egg laying, Haloperidol (Haldol) – for feather self-destruction, and Zylkene ~ for dry skin are perpetually prescribed with treatments running from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars.


Not one long-term study is ever been done about any of these drugs and its effect on pet birds.


Lighting 2 Windy City Parrot birdcages ~ video


We have been using light therapy for more than a decade.


“There’s that crackpot at Windy City Parrot, again, talking about light therapy.”


Crackpot I may be, everything I do is driven by our advocacy for pet birds.


Where did I get this crazy notion about the efficacy of light for use in the avian world?


By Jove, it was a veterinarian, Dr. Gregory Harrison to be exact.


Harrison’s used to sell a product called “Avix Releaves” to help chronic egg layers (but they had to halt production when the laboratory that produced it for them closed down).


On the postage stamp set of instructions that came with the bottle, stating the following:



Manipulation of the light cycle is a simple way to interrupt egg-laying.


Leaving the hen in a cage exposed to continuous light for 3-7 days in a row may disrupt the circadian and annual rhythms to “reset” the reproductive hormones to a resting state.


Most birds will rest with 3 days of continuous light; however, others may need up to 7 days.


The light needs to be about as bright as a room in the middle of the day.


Bright white incandescent bulbs (approximately a total of 300-400 watts or 4200 lumens daylight compact fluorescent bulbs [ie, 95 CRI, >5500°K]) may be used in the room with the cage.


A nest box or anything the bird could use to hide from the light should be removed from the cage.


If the hen stops eating or starts to appear fluffed or stressed, the natural day-night cycle should be resumed.”


Greg Harrison was easy to get on the phone and chat with about his success with light therapy.


We have since confirmed the efficacy of light therapy on pet birds with HARI and works closely with Guelf veterinary college along with the many Windy City Parrot customers that have experienced success with our economical lighting products.


A shot of Lupron runs about $80 and most chronic egg-laying birds will get at least four injections.


Full Spectrum Economy Daylight Bulb with Clamp Light & Timer Read more: https://windycityparrot.com/lighting-c-356_346/full-spectrum-economy-daylight-bulb-with-clamp


A complete lighting system with the timer from us under 40 bucks.


As to your question about the flicker fusion rate with fluorescent bulbs, we have been using CFL twists for over a decade and have seen zero adverse effects.


“Even if budgerigars are unlikely to perceive 100 Hz flicker from artificial lighting it may still cause distress if the retina responds to it.” Read more 


We’re still doing research about LEDs but believe in our heart of hearts that they stress birds out way more than incandescent and fluorescent.


I applaud your efforts at lighting while advocating two changes.


  1. The light needs to be dropped one foot to no more than 6 inches over the cage. (see featured photo at top of page)
  2. A timer needs to be introduced set for 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness.

  3. And this is where everyone gets it wrong:it’s not about the quality of light but it’s the light cycle that maintains a birds ( and human’s) circadian rhythms in a stable sort of way.


  4. Relying on sunlight from your home’s windows (which filters all UVB and UVA portions of the spectrum) is one of the most stressful things for a bird.

Parrots are indigenous to areas 40 minutes north and 40 minutes south of the equator where the lifecycle is close to 12/12.


They’ve had more than 100 million years to adjust.


The changing of North American sunlight cycles combined with the dubious practice of daylight savings time is literally a driving force in making our birds crazy.

Wishing you all the best

Stay safe


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