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Sandra December 30, 2021

Proper Lighting For Our Indoor Birds in the Winter

In almost all cases placing your bird's cage next to a closed window does not provide them with any UV-B. Placing your bird near a window may be nice for the view, and it can increase your bird’s exposure to visible light, but your bird will not be getting the benefits it needs from the sunshine.

Full-spectrum+UV-B bird lamps work to replicate the sun in a gentle, safe and measured way. In the winter months, when our birds can't get outside due to cold temperatures and less sunlight, they will benefit from natural exposure to the full range of the terrestrial wavelengths of daylight.

Bird lighting experts say that "as soon as the lamp is switched on, you will generally see birds become more animated." So bird lighting, even a few times a week, will have a very positive effect. 

Natural sunlight varies throughout different parts of the year, and its intensity and duration of light tell a bird when it's time to molt when it's time to breed, regulates its cyclical clock and adjusts its metabolism. Being in tune with the seasons makes for a more psychologically well-balanced bird.

Birds need natural sunlight for Vitamin D production, hormone balance, organ, skin and feather health. So while we can emulate natural light in captivity, there is no substitute for the real deal. Whenever we can we should get out birds into the sunshine even for a little bit but full-spectrum lighting is an asset regardless.


Birds exposed to natural outdoor sunlight or indoor full spectrum bird lights have improved feather and skin condition, a perkier attitude and healthier bones. Birds use the sun's energy for warmth, to view the world in colour and to be able to make their own essential Vitamin D3.

It's primarily about vitamin D because birds can appear gloomy or lethargic with dull or brittle feathers without it. Vitamin D keeps the immune system strong, it’s essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and can help regulate insulin levels.

This means healthier, stronger bones and beaks and improved feather production. Additionally, a bird's vision and perception are dramatically enhanced. Our parrots can see into the near-ultraviolet range, which gives them the ability to see colours that we can't.


Full-spectrum is a term used in the marketing of bulbs that replicate natural sunlight. It radiates near-ultraviolet light that, while not equal in quality to sunlight, is a good artificial light that is safe and effective.

Don't confuse these for the reptile lamps that also give heat; you want to get bird-specific lighting that does NOT heat. 

Full-spectrum lighting affects your birds' mental and physical health. Parrots can see vivid colours enabling them to navigate their environment, find food amongst leaves and twigs and perceive danger such as predators. Such keen vision supports your birds' self-confidence about its ability to keep itself safe.

Physiologically, full-spectrum light provides Vitamin D3. As mentioned, this is an essential component in utilizing calcium for strong and healthy bones, affects behaviour and seasonal hormone levels, and allows our birds to get a better night's sleep.


FS bulbs are available in many pet stores and online. They come in two varieties: tubes that vary in length and big bulbs. The tube bulbs require fixtures that hold those particular bulbs at a distance equal to the size of the bulb you are purchasing, and the screw-in bulbs will fit into any regular lamp base.
Source: Arcadiabird
Reputable brands include Vita-Lite, Chroma, BioLight and Lumichrome. The bulbs, to be effective, should have a CRI (colour rendition index) of 90 or more and a colour temperature of 5000k or more. Be sure to get bulbs specified for avian use as reptiles have different lighting requirements.

Natural sunlight should be part of your bird's lighting regimen when it's available and safe, but indoor full spectrum lights help keep your bird healthy. The lights can mount to the top of the cage, or they should be hung above the aviary, and the electric cord is usually protected so that your bird can't bite it and suffer electrocution.


The tube bulbs need to be placed about 12″ to 18″ from the cage. The heat generated by these bulbs is minimal, and it won't cause overheating. Place them over the top of the aviary and the light can be turned on from sunrise to sunset, or as close to that as you can to work within your schedule since we are trying to duplicate nature. Adjust the timing to mimic the seasonal sun because it is essential for their sleep. Light signals the brain that it is time to sleep or wake up. 

As a rule of thumb, since our parrots are from tropical forest areas where the sun shines 10 hours a day, our birds need about 10 hours of light each day. Without adequate full spectrum light, a bird may feel fatigued, be more reactive to stress and ultimately, the immune system may be compromised. 

With our schedule, we turn it on for about 8 hours a day.

A quick note about FS bulbs that I found online. “They are not a suitable replacement for natural sunlight all year round and some research has shown that the UV rays only extend about 18 inches from the bulb itself, but keeping the FS bulbs that close to a bird's cage can cause corneal scarring in their eyes. Additionally, it is possible that the bulbs only produce UVB for about six months.”

When purchasing these bulbs please do your research and choose a reputable brand that specializes in bird lighting. With bird lighting safety is the key, and all lighting equipment should be fitted safely and out of the way of the bird's reach.

Another good resource for more info on FS lighting, vitamin D3, and more is Arcadia Bird and Avian lighting.