From feather plucking to calcium deficiencies many of the common health problems of African Grey parrots can be resolved with the proper amount of full spectrum lighting.
African Grey Parrot Health Issues:
Many Common African Grey Illnesses can be Solved
African Grey parrots are highly intelligent. This makes them very popular pets, but also very high maintenance pets. Their high maintenance makes captive African Grey parrots susceptible to several common health problems. Fortunately, many of the ailments common to the African Grey, such as feather plucking and calcium deficiency, can be resolved with a few simple environmental changes, the easiest of which is the introduction of natural sunlight or full spectrum lighting.
Hypocalcemia or Calcium Deficiency
It might be hard to imagine, but the simple act of introducing your African Grey parrot, or any other bird for that matter, to natural sunlight or a full spectrum light system can increase the bird’s calcium intake.
When birds preen their feathers they spread oil over them from their Uropygial gland situated at the base of their tail. This oil undergoes a chemical reaction when it is met with the UVA and UVB rays of sunlight. The reaction changes the oil in to vitamin D3. When the bird preens again, they ingest the vitamin D3 from their feathers. Vitamin D3 is necessary for animals, and humans, to be able to extract calcium from their diet through their digestive tract.
Many people place their African Grey parrots in a
cage by the window. This is ineffective in creating the vitamin D3
because home windows filter out the UVA and UVB rays that are
required to synthesize the vitamin D3 from the Uropygial gland oil.
Avian veterinarians recommend that African Grey parrots be given access to plenty of fresh air and sunlight in order to keep their internal clocks, or circadian rhythm, operating properly. It is believed that disrupting the circadian rhythm can lead to depression and, consequently, to feather plucking in African Grey parrots.
However, for many people, cold winter weather makes it hard to open windows for their bird. This problem is further exasperated by the fact that, in much of the country, winter weather causes a lack of natural sunlight during the ever shortening days.
African Grey parrots originate from Central Africa, which is close to the Equator. Their species thrives in an environment that allows them between five and seven hours of sunlight per day. These hours of sunlight can be easily replicated and controlled by placing a full spectrum light near their cage and setting with a timer to allow the appropriate amount of light.
Getting the Right Light
Because most full spectrum light bulbs are manufactured to fit in to a normal light fixture, there is an almost endless supply of fixtures that can be used as a full spectrum parrot light. There are, however, several things to consider when choosing a light.
For instance, you want to choose a light that can be affixed to the top of your parrot’s cage or no more than two feet above it.
Because the light fixture needs to be so
close to an African Grey parrot’s cage, you need to be sure that
there is no way for the bird to dismantle the fixture or to bite the
electrical cord of the fixture.
When buying new bulbs for your lighting fixture, make sure that the bulbs are truly full spectrum. Many grocery store brands boast full spectrum lighting, but what they really offer is full spectrum color lighting. These brands do not produce the UVA and UVB rays that your bird needs to produce the D3 vitamin.
We may never fully understand the benefits that a bird like the African Grey parrot receives from full spectrum light, but what we do know is that it is an important part of a happy and healthy life.