by Heike Ewing Ott
What should you look for when choosing full spectrum lighting for your parrots? How many hours should full spectrum lights be left on and how close should they be placed to the bird. This article attempts to answer some of the questions about full spectrum lighting.
First of all, which lights are the best? They all claim they are full-spectrum, but Ott Lite says they are better than all the rest.
Go by the index numbers on the specifications. Each should have a number of how close it is to real sunlight, 96% or 98% or some number like that. The higher the number, the better the light. I personally have used Chromalux and Vita-Lite, and both seem to work quite well.
& want to get 2 or 3 incandescents.
Note that the incandescents give off a considerable amount of heat. In the winter, that’s good; in the summer it’s not!
Next of all, I have read that the lights need to be within 1 to 2 feet of your bird & I have also read that they need to be at least 6 feet away. Which is correct? Are the distance requirements different for the incandescents?
These lights were initially developed for reptiles, and I think some of the people who sell them just assume that the requirements for birds are the same as for lizards! Light is light, it just needs to reach the bird. With the fluorescents, I placed them anywhere from 1 – 4 feet from the cages. If you NEED the heat of the incandescent, like for a sick bird, it should be within 1 – 2 feet so the bird can feel the heat. If not, it should be further away so the birds don’t get too hot.
How many hours per day are minimum?
According to my two avian vet “experts”, about 6 hours of exposure to these lights equals 30 minutes of sunlight. Note that the full spectrum of sunlight can not penetrate glass, and that even a few minutes outside in sunlight, or sunlight through a screen without glass, is more beneficial than hours of exposure to the lights.
Can you possibly give your birds too much exposure?
Only if you have the lights on them so much that it interferes with their sleep cycle, or so close to them that they overheat.
Then I’ve also read of adding black light to round out the spectrum for breeding birds.
I haven’t heard of this. I know they use them for supplemental night heat for lizards, but I’ve not heard that they are beneficial to birds.
LaFaebers says that both Nutriberries & Avicakes (provided the bird eats the pellets) can be fed as a total diet. What do all of you think?
Sure, and you could survive on a diet exclusively of Carnation instant breakfast, too, but would it be healthy? Would you LIKE it? As I said previously, we still don’t completely understand the nutritional needs of parrots. The larger the variety of healthy foods we offer them, the more likely it is that they will be able to meet those needs.
Are pellets still better?
Pellets are better because in a fortified seed mix or even in Nutriberries, the bird can pick and choose which seeds/parts of it to eat. Pellets are homogenous, every bite has the same mix of nutrients.
LaFaebers also says that vitamin supplement (in drinking water) is not needed with these diets, but you can still give it if you want. Isn’t there a possibility of giving too many vitamins & it being bad?
Yes! If you are feeding pellets or anything that has vitamins and minerals added, you shouldn’t supplement in the drinking water. Fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E etc.) can build up in the body and become toxic at high levels. BTW, supplementation in water is mostly useless anyway as parrots drink relatively little water and can do with even less if they don’t like the taste of their water. (For this reason, medicating in the drinking water doesn’t do much good either, as a side note.) Better to sprinkle a supplement powder on their favorite fresh fruits and veggies. Also, any seed mix that coats the outside of the seed with supplements is useless. A parrot’s dry tongue doesn’t get them off, and the supplements are discarded with the seed hull.