3 blue ang gold macaw parrots on branch over river in front of a waterfall

Does UV Light Really Help Produce Vitamin D3 in Birds?

Last Updated on by mitchrezman

Have you ever wished you could see the additional ultraviolet light spectrum that birds can?

I’ve been a strong proponent of using light cycles to interrupt the circadian rhythms of our pet birds 

I’m also fully convinced that no amount of artificial lighting over birdcage will help a bird produce vitamin D3 regardless of the lumens, quality of the ultraviolet spectrum emitted or the distance from the light source to the cage 

editors note: Vitamin D3 is used by your bird’s body to help assimilate calcium. Calcium is more important to hens who may go through egg laying cycles.

The only way to know if your bird is deficient in calcium is by a blood panel work up through your avian vet.

The lack of eggs is no guarantee you have a male as eggs can get stuck any number of ways in a birds reproductive system, especially in over weigh birds.

You can have your bird surgically sexed by your vet or spend $18 for a DNA test kit

The only way to know if your bird is over weight – is to weigh it – regularly. Regular weight checking is a front line defense against illness detection as rapid weight gains or losses may indicate a health problem not apparent by visual inspection of the bird

I’m assuming every one of you reading these words has, will be getting or has had a pet bird at some point in their life. You may have interacted with a veterinarian or better yet a board certified avian veterinarian for well bird examinations or God forbid, an emergency 

Scientists, ornithologists and researchers know unequivocally that sunlight cycles, moonlight cycles, ambient temperatures all impact every living organism’s circadian rhythms – especially birds. 

Notably because they can see areas of the light spectrum that few animals and organisms can see. 

Controlled by circadian oscillations, circadian rhythm indicate to birds when to molt, when to breed and when to migrate. In humans circadian rhythms make us depressed during the shortened light cycle days of winter. These aren’t hunches, these are facts. 

How many veterinarians have asked any of you about  lighting and light cycles the suggesting the introduction of timed light cycles to help your bird keep an even keel hormonally?

 Whenever I post and/or ask the question about why isn’t a particular captive bird keeper whose bird is exhibiting hormonal behavior like prolific egg laying, using light to control this – it’s treated as heresy. 

I’ve had Facebook fans reply that “I shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet”

a couple of injections of Lupron isn’t going to hurt a bird. You know Lupron, the drug that’s caused things like teeth enamel delamination, fibromyalgia and broken bones more than 10,000 post pubescent women – 10 years after the treatment? 

Yet avian veterinarians have been using Lupron off script for years 

I’ve seen no research studies on either side of that question. I work closely with the folks at HARI who care for close to 500 birds with on-site avian veterinarians testing for efficacy of Hagen bird foods. 

They work  closely with the veterinary school in Guelph Ontario Canada. 

Dr. Gregory Harrison the founder and producer of the only organic and non-GMO bird food manufactured today Harrisons bird food, recommends light cycle therapy on the Harrisons bird food website

I’ve seen light cycle disruption work myself and for our customers. Why can’t I get any avian veterinarians who endorse this? Why can’t I get bird keepers in general to understand the birds are unlike all of the creatures.

I can see how UV  can produce D3 fir reptiles who have exposed skin and sit motionless on a rock under the UV light for hours.

Birds on the other hand tend to be more mobile. Birds need to obtain from the uropygial (preening) gland and as they preen residue from the feathers may come in contact with their skin.

An what about Amazons? Amazons have no preening gland – fyi.

From Wikipedia: The integumentary system is the organ system that protects the body from various kinds of damage, such as loss of water or abrasion from outside. The system comprises the skin and its appendages (including hair, scales, feathers, hooves, and nails).

Vitamin D# deficiencies can result from low calcium levels

If you have an egg producing hen but clutches are small and  egg quality is low your bird may be vitamin D3 deficient

Bone fractures – Seizures – Overgrown beak – Splayed legs can be a  all be indicators of vitamin D3 deficiency.

African greys are susceptible to hypocalcaemia which may be the result ofa vitamin D deficiency not low calcium levels.

It’s best to address any vitamin deficiencies in pet birds with proper nutrition like Prime supplement from Hagen.

Donna Replied 

Hi Mitch,

I am fairly new to reading your blog, so I hope I am not asking questions that are too redundant. I have three birds – a almost 4 year old male Bodini Amazon, a 2 year old male Blue-headed Pionus, and a fiesty little female Parrotlet. I have two questions really.

First , I would like to know if what I am currently doing is adequate or not. My birds have their own room where their cages are.

The room is furnished with a fountain, a tree, hanging toys, etc. – basically a parrot playground. There is only one overhead light in the room that is just an LED daylight bulb.

They spend most of the day out of their cages in their room or in other rooms of the house with me on stands. So, that being said should I be making other lighting arrangements. I ask because you say to put the light above their cages, but I assume that is for birds that spend more time in their cages than mine?

There is a bit of screaming on and off. There seems to be more lately for reasons I can’t figure out? Idk is it’s light related or not?

My second question is about food. I wonder if you suggest something different than what I am doing? They eat Zupreem fruit pellets as their primary diet, but they also get fresh vegetables, and Higgins fruit and nut mixes fairly freely.

I would love your opinion and suggestions for my flock. Thank you so much for your time!

Hi Donna  – Thank you for writing

Other than keeping the bird room from darkness the overhead bulb in the bird room doesn’t bring much to the party. Having lights above the cages is only half the equation.

A timer is essential to indicate to your birds when the day begins and ends. You may have a morning routine during the week when you come into the room every morning, turn on the bird room light and uncover the cages.

But if you sleep in on the week end, even if the ceiling light was on a timer, the cages are probably covered.

Birds don’t know what day it is but they can tell time more accurately than a Rolex. Having a consistent light source is one of the many signals the pineal gland signaling “well being” messages to our birds.

We currently have a Senegal and 4 budgies – the budgies have their cage and Peaches has hers. The are in the same “space” but they can’t see each other when caged.

The times go on and off at 7:20 am/pm respectively. When daylight savings time arrives – we will not respect it and the time will be 8:20 on/off for consistently.

Peaches has bonded with me, she tolerates Catherine. Normally Catherine is up early and will uncover Peaches (and the Breakfast Club) when her light comes on.

This morning she left for work early. I got up about 8, uncovered Peaches cage (now 40 minutes late opened the door, sought a step up as I always do – but got bit. I never get bit. I instantly knew it was Peaches communicating to me, her unhappiness at the delayed cage unveiling.

I closed the cage door, came back in 10 minutes and she was happy to hop on my shoulder so we could embark on our morning chores. Which takes us to your screaming issue.

Days are now once again getting longer which is very confusing to birds. I haven’t found a lot of information on cross (bird) species communication but this is an interesting article assuming the parrotlet is part of the conversation.

When birds scream, they are communicating. Your zons might be saying “hey where’s the girls – we have urges” Is the screaming more pronounced in the bird room or when they out and about the house with you?

Which now takes us to the food issue (all bird issues are intertwined) Before I get into food recommendations, how is food dispensed to your birds. Dishes filled with an unlimited supply of kibble in their cages and stands?

Lack of enrichment can be a contributing factor The screaming could me “WE’RE BORED – WE ATE AND NOW GOT NUTTIN’ TO DO CEPT WATCH YOU”

This is one of my favorite videos. Birds with a cages filled with endless food sources next to interactive toys where getting food is a difficult task.

To the food question. Zupreem adds sugar to its pellets for patibility making it very  popular with birds. I question how that sugar affects birds for the 6  hours it spends in their crop. Sugar has a low ph making it acidic – for 6 hours. I’d recommend either Hagen Tropimix Or Higgins Safflower gold

Both blends have seeds fruits nuts and pellets providing more of an enrichment diet. Fresh vegetables, and Higgins fruit and nut could still be part of the diet. Just try to make it fun 🙂

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

your zygodactyl footnote


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I noticed you started using Fluval lights for your birds. Interesting! I did purchase one also in my area, but can’t shut off the blue light. It will dim but not go out completely. Also the light doesn’t reach far enough down into the large cage. What is the difference between your Fluval light and the Full Spectrum Fluval light for Fish & Plants in your opinion?

    1. The blue light should turn off via the remote jakibro and I’l find out about the differences between the 2 shortly

      1. I should clarify. The blue dims down a bit but does not seem to shut off completely when the white lights are on. Perhaps it’s just a reflection of light from the white lights into the blue. I’ll wait to hear your thoughts on comparing the other lights. They also have full spectrum for salt water fish & coral. There’s not enough info on their site to make an education decision on purchasing the more powerful lights. Don’t want to hurt or burn my Indian Ringneck in his tall corner cage. Thanks for reply!

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