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General Health Care Remember to use common sense and consult with an avian veterinarian.

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Old 01-28-2013, 11:33 PM
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Full Spectrum Lighting - Do You Want It part-1

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Sorry, but this is a bit long.....page and note notations do not relate to any information in this data, but to a project from which it came.....


Full spectrum lighting is another area of companion birding where much is written, but all is not what it may seem. As with many things in our lives and the lives of those we have chosen to take under our wing, there are not many easily understood answers here. Whether the added expense of installing and using what is sold as full spectrum lighting (FS lighting) is a worthwhile investment, is something we must determine for ourselves, based on the information we have available.

Full spectrum lighting generally refers to man-made fluorescent and HID lighting sources which purportedly provide, among others, a range of ultraviolet light which allows our feathered friends to synthesize Vitamin-D3.
“The term full-spectrum was coined in the 1960s by photobiologist Dr. John Ott to describe electric light sources that simulate the visible and ultraviolet (UV) spectrum of natural light.” [21]

To begin with, one needs to understand that the term `full spectrum’ is simply a marketing tool, coined by GE marketing personnel, and not a scientific standard. After WW2, the move was from incandescent lights to a higher output & more even lighting for the money invested.

Schools were used as the stepping stone to market the new fluorescent lighting back in the 1950s. Prior to the war many classrooms were lit with 12-16 single bulb hanging light fixtures. GE came up with a marketing package where they convinced school systems that `Full Spectrum’ fluorescentlighting was healthier for their student charges. Millions were spent re-lighting classrooms.

Money well spent, when comparing the quality and quantity of light that this new type of lighting replaced. During this same period of time, Dr. John Ott (PhD type), a photographer & photo biologist, was tinkering with lighting relevant to obtaining better pictures. He got patents & the `Ott Light’ appeared on the market….not as anything to do with reptiles or birds though, this was still for photography, both still & motion. See link 19 for some background on John Ott.

In recent years there have been a lot of questions raised about the validity of the various claims made by the different manufacturers & marketers of `full spectrum’ lighting. An excellent study was done by a university in Germany, though the data has only been published in German (at least when I did my research 3-4 years ago). Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has also done studies and most of their data is understandable.

When reading about ‘full spectrum Lighting’ you need to have an open mind and understand that there are virtually no government regulations that require ‘truth in advertising’ about this subject, so what you read in the slick sales hype gives you the impression of one result, while what you really get is not what you thought you paid for.

For most of us, our knowledge on FS lighting comes from the multitude of websites that proffer information about FS lighting. The problem here is that these sites are often merely copying information from another source or worse yet, they have extrapolated those parts that served their purpose and have added such other information that only furthers their perspective, many times leaving the average reader either confused or believing misconstrued or blatantly false sales pitches.

Understanding full spectrum lighting can be confusing, where most of the written material, covering the subject, is of a technical nature, or the information conflicts from manufacturer to manufacturer, as do the performance claims made for their various products.

In Lighting Answers, vol 7, issue 5, the Lighting Research Center offers:
“Different companies have different ideas about what constitutes a full-spectrum light source, and what it is about full-spectrum light that yields the claimed benefits.” [21]

The confusion may lighten some when you realize that:
“The term full-spectrum is not a technical term, but rather a marketing term……” [22]

Although published in the National Cockatiel Society Journal, July/August, 1999, Lighting and Your Bird, an article by Patrick Thrush, is a good place to start, regarding FS lighting and caged birds, and follow that with his article entitled Using Full Spectrum Lighting With Birds.

For a better understanding of how light plays in a day in the life of our feathered friends, Patrick Thrush’s article, Simulating Natural Photoperiod: The Stepped Lighting Approach, should be helpful.

The inclusion of this section was prompted by a message thread, about full spectrum lighting, in one of the internet newsgroups I am a member of. My thanks to Howard Thomas, whose response to another’s post was the catalyst:
“…..to be effective (for health benefit), the full spectrum bulbs must be at least 24 inches long – 48 inches is even better. Those miniature screw-in bulbs do not produce UV light long enough to be of benefit. With the miniature bulbs, the UV light drops off as early as 2 weeks after initial use. Although they produce a really nice light for viewing and reading, they are of little or no use for producing vitamin D in the birds.”

Were full spectrum lighting products to be capable of producing true full spectrum light, they would be somewhat cumbersome and quite unsightly in our homes. I would also expect that they would quickly fade our furniture and draperies, as well as carry health warnings about the risks of extended exposure to them.


This is continued in:
Full Spectrum Lighting - Do You Want It part-2
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Old 01-28-2013, 11:39 PM
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Full Spectrum Lighting - Do You Want It part-2

This is a continuation from: Full Spectrum Lighting - Do You Want It part-1



You might find Terry Beaudoin’s article, we met Terry back on page 80 (**), The Necessity of Full Spectrum Lighting somewhat easier reading than all of the technical stuff. You can find Terry’s article at his website ParrotIslandinc.com.

Also, on a MedLibrary.org supplementary page, a service of
Wikipedia, it states:

“Full-spectrum light is light that covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum from low infrared to ultraviolet and above; in particular, sunlight is considered full spectrum, even though the solar spectral distribution reaching Earth varies with time of day, latitude, and atmospheric conditions.”

The MedLibrary.org page further states:

“Products marketed as ‘full-spectrum’ may produce light throughout the entire spectrum, but actually do not produce an even spectral distribution, and may not even differ substantially from lights not marketed as ‘full-spectrum

Articles on bird lighting by Patrick Thrush (one of the links is dead)
Little Feathered Buddies Health & Nutrition

In recent years there has been increasing research regarding artificial lighting on animals, however, much of this research has been performed by ‘backyard’ scientists and relates, primarily to reptiles.By ‘backyard’ scientists I mean that the research has not been conducted in fancy laboratories by a multitude of white coated technicians. Rather, this research, led by Frances Baines, much of it eye-opening, has been conducted, compared, checked and rechecked by private reptile owners, though their ranks include veterinarians, clinicians and academics as well as the average reptile owner.


Though not performed in shiny modern laboratories, the credibility of Baines, a retired veterinarian in the UK, is such that it has caused manufacturers to pull product lines from international markets until they had been re-worked and re-manufactured based on Baines research.

Frances and an avian veterinarian from New York State have recently collaborated on studying photokeratoconjunctivitis (aka snow blindness, welder’s flash, arc-eye) in parrots. It seems that veterinarians are seeing more eye injuries in presented parrot patients.

In their December, 2008 edition, Wildlife Middle East News, reporting on the Wade, Baines findings, published:

“Ultraviolet light induced photokeratitis in parrots caused by aviculturalists using some brands of UV spectrum bulbs manufactured in China has been reported (Wade 2008). Potential users should pay great attention to sourcing UV spectrum bulbs from reputable companies.”

Photokeratoconjunctivitis (also referred to simply as photokeratitis) is a photochemical injury of the eye by ultraviolet radiation and in parrots it is thought to be caused by the use of and positioning of some of these so-called full spectrum lights.

Although the work relating to parrots has not been published to the public yet, Frances’ website, http://www.uvguide.co.uk is easily navigated and quite enlightening.

As we know that many things relating to humans can also relate to our feathered friends.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour, Ontario, Canada has seen fit to post a cautionary webpage, Health Effects of UV Exposure. Although written about human exposure to UV radiation, our feathered friends are subject to the same effects, damage and ailments described. [**123]

Until published data reaches the general public about the potential dangers of using the wrong artificial UVB light sources, along with cautions about the positioning of some of these bulbs/tubes, Baines website and the various data contained there, is a good reference.

Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding positioning and use of lights designated for animal and/or avian use and if you decide to use these types of artificial lighting for your flock, always position the lights so that a bird can get out of the light or provide some sort of shade over part of each cage.
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Old 09-02-2013, 11:04 PM
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Lighting Information For Birds

Much of the "understandable" relevant information on bird lighting was written back in 1999 by Patrick Thrush, with his various papers finding different internet homes over the years and was missing for the past 4-5 years, but it has returned and has been updated in some areas.....

If you would like to try understanding the various dynamics involved, you would do your birds a favor to take the time to read the information posted at this website:

Birds and Lighting General Index



There is some recently published information (2013 & 2012) on LED lighting and birds just starting to imerge, but the systems are not those currently being offered for aquariums and what is showing up applies to poultry & egg production:

http://www.thepoultrysite.com/articl...ng-on-chickens

Last edited by weco; 09-02-2013 at 11:18 PM. Reason: Additional information.....
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Old 09-03-2013, 12:26 AM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

Thanks for posting that weco! I need to read through all that when I'm not so tired....lol
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Old 09-03-2013, 06:27 AM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

AWESOME, Walt!!! Thanks so much for this info. I will make this thread a sticky, especially since lighting is coming up all the time. I will also dig around and merge other threads you've made about lighting and combine them with this one.

Thank you again!!!
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Old 09-03-2013, 11:19 AM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

Well I certainly don't want my birds looking like "tan-mom"!

Last edited by Kalidasa; 09-03-2013 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 09-04-2013, 09:57 PM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

Although this link was published in 2010, the information is still current and is published by a respected parrot rescue organization. Please note also that the lamps being recommended are 4 foot long, not CFLs or LEDs:

April Newsletter
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Old 09-14-2013, 03:12 PM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

Now that a lot of our light bulbs have come to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), you may want to keep your receipts & packages for the ones that offer a length of use warranty, because you can get free replacements, until the manufacturers decide they don't want to replace defects any longer.....

I have seen warranties claiming 10,000 hours of service, now that's almost 417 days of continuous on time, but with the design of many ceiling lights, these 'bulbs' are mounted in a down hanging position with little or no ventilation designed into the fixture or the covering globe.

Now, the realism is that the cheap ones burn out rather quickly so, you probably will be $$$ ahead if you buy Energy Star-rated bulbs, or bulbs with a warranty. Something else, if you use illuminated wall switches, there is published information that your CFLs will burn out more quickly, also most of these CFLs cannot be used with dimmer switches.....

Unlike incandescent lamps, CFLs require a starter and a ballast to operate, however these are built into the lamp...that thick plastic contraption between the screw threads and the light tube contains the electronic circuitry that starts & runs a CFL.....the drawback of this type of design is the fact that in closed or non-ventilated fixtures, the heat buildup severely reduces the lifespan of the light tube/bulb because the excessive heat simply burns up the electronics in the tube's base.....

Turning these lamps into downlights, by installing them in fixtures that allow heat buildup/concentration around the base fitted electronics will severely reduce the lamp's lifespan and could cause the electronic base to actually catch fire.....I had a client who had a breakfast counter/bar with 5 recessed lights, actually they were of a design where the lens snapped off to allow bulb replacement.....they had recently replaced their incandescent bulbs with CFLs and the wife replaced their wooden bar stools with cushioned ones and decided to use the counter as a computer work station.....one afternoon she heard sizzling & crackling above her, looked up & saw smoke coming out of one of the light fixtures.....the base of one of the CFLs had burned & ignited.....had she not been right there, they probably would have lost their house.....be careful of how you install those new lamps.....
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Old 02-11-2015, 08:08 AM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

WOW I have been looking into getting a Spectrum light. After reading all this I think I will put my money into a good harness .
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Old 02-11-2015, 10:07 AM
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Re: Lighting Information For Birds

Yeah thanks so much Walt, that's good to know. I was thinking of getting one on ebay and now I won't. What bulbs/watts do you all use? I'm too tired to retain anything I read right now, worked all night in preparation for the arrival of my new fid.
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