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Why Do Parrots Need Sunshine?

(Last Updated On: May 16, 2023)

Most parrots hail from tropical and subtropical climates, so they need exposure to the sun’s Uv rays in captivity to remain mentally and physically healthy.

Sunlight is vital to a parrot’s well-being, enabling the body to synthesize vitamin D3. Without vitamin D3, a bird’s body can’t absorb the calcium essential for a strong skeleton, feathers, and eggshells.

When exposed to the sun’s warmth, a parrot will find it easier to preen and remove parasites.

Positioning a parrot’s cage by a window won’t provide sunlight because glass and plastic filter out UV rays. A parrot should spend 30+ minutes outdoors or under a UV lamp every other day.

Taking parrots outside can be achieved with an aviary, where birds can relax during the day. Alternatively, you can temporarily put the bird’s cage under your supervision in partial sunlight/shade.

Is Sunlight Good for Parrots?

Sunlight is good for parrots, vital to their ongoing physical and psychological well-being.

Skin and feather quality, the removal of parasites, internal organ health, and safer reproduction are all directly and indirectly linked to exposure to sunlight.

Sunlight matters so much to parrots because it provides vitamin D3, called cholecalciferol. When parrots feel the sun’s warmth, they expose the uropygial gland near the tail.

The uropygial gland produces sebum, an oily film that parrots use to preen and clean themselves. Sebum clears the skin of fungi and bacteria and provides hydration.

Perhaps more importantly, UV rays of the sun synthesize vitamin D3 once they interact with sebum.

A parrot will benefit from vitamin D absorption while preening. Vitamin D3 is vital to hormone regulation and organ health, especially the liver and heart.

Calcium is the building block that provides a parrot with a strong skeleton and feathers. It’s also needed for sturdy eggshells, reducing the risk of conditions like egg binding (dystocia).

What Happens if a Parrot Doesn’t Get Sunlight?

The consequences of failing to provide full-spectrum light for birds are as follows:

Skeletal and Muscular Weakness

No matter how hearty a parrot’s appetite is, if it isn’t getting sufficient sunshine, it won’t synthesize vitamin D3, meaning the body can’t utilize calcium.

A calcium deficiency can lead to bone diseases like osteoporosis. According to Poultry Science, osteoporosis can lead to brittle bones and fractures.

It’s not just the skeleton that will suffer. A parrot will likely experience muscle wastage, growing increasingly unsteady on its feet and suffering from tics and seizures.

can parrots get sunburn?

Weak Eggshells

Eggshells will fail to strengthen and solidify, so the embryo may not survive. If so, the eggs won’t hatch.

Also, a parrot that lacks access to sunlight will have soft and misshapen eggs, complicating the laying process. If you observe a gravid female parrot straining, it’s likely egg-bound and needs urgent vet care.

Unbalanced Circadian Rhythms

If a parrot doesn’t get sufficient sunshine in a day, its circadian rhythms will become unbalanced. This will lead to confusion, preventing the bird from getting 10-12 hours of sleep.

Parrots use daylight and darkness to understand when to sleep at night. If you fail to expose a parrot to sunshine during the day, its sleep patterns will be disturbed, and its health will suffer.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Parrots can fall victim to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter. As most parrot species are native to tropical or sub-tropical territories, they’ll be unfamiliar with prolonged darkness.

The symptoms of SAD in parrots mirror those found in humans. The bird will become increasingly withdrawn and lethargic and may show other signs of stress and anxiety.

The signs of stress include aggression, feather-destructive behavior, stereoptypies, and inappetence.

How To Expose A Parrot To Sunlight

Understanding how to provide sunlight for pet birds is a key component of avian care. Simply placing a parrot’s cage beside a window won’t work because glass filters the sun’s UV rays. 

Most parrots spend their days and nights living indoors, so you must choose the optimum location for the bird’s cage. Locate the cage where the parrot will enjoy partial access to sunlight.

Draw curtains when the sunlight is most intense without sacrificing the bird’s ability to bask in the sun.

There are two ways to allow parrots to benefit from direct sun exposure:

Outdoor Aviary

You must plan carefully before giving parrots access to the outdoors and direct sunlight exposure. Ensure the parrot remains safe from predators and can’t escape.

An aviary affords a parrot outdoor time. This substantial birdhouse should be positioned to afford exposure to sunlight and shade as required.

An aviary can be a welcome place for parrots to spend their days during the hotter times of the year, but no tropical bird can live outdoors all year or sleep outside when temperatures drop.

Harness Training

If you want to allow a parrot time outside but an aviary isn’t an option, consider harness training the bird. This involves fastening a harness to the parrot so it can walk or fly outdoors without escaping.

It may take time to get a parrot used to wearing a harness. Offer rewards as the parrot starts to accept the idea of wearing this leash, encouraging it to walk and fly while tethered.

Once the parrot accepts wearing a harness, you can bring it into the sunshine and allow it to bask in the sun. Harness training allows exercise outside without clipping the parrot’s wings.

Alternatives To Natural Sunlight for Birds

Most pet stores specializing in avian supplies will stock bird-friendly UV lights.

These could be a small lamp that you place close to a parrot’s cage or overhead lighting strips. These additional UV sources also compensate for UV shortfalls caused by windows filtering the sun’s rays.

A UV lamp will improve a bird’s psychological health, minimizing the risk of destructive and anxious behaviors like feather picking. It’ll also enhance the bird’s appetite and bolster its immunity.

If you’re keen to utilize an alternative to sunlight, understand the different types of UV light and their uses. UV light comes in 3 different forms:

UVA LightAs the longest rays released by the sun, most UV rays that reach the skin when outside are UVA. Any UV lamp will contain UVA, which is critical for imitating the sun’s rays, but UVA must be handled with care as it can penetrate the middle layer of skin.
UVB LightAlso known as shortwave light, UVB is the leading component of most UV lamps. Don’t shine a UVB directly on a parrot for a prolonged period. More than any UVA and UVC, UVB rays are key to Vitamin D3 synthesis, so any product should offer safe access.
UVC LightAlso known as shortwave light, UVB is the leading component of most UV lamps. Don’t shine a UVB directly on a parrot for a prolonged period. More than any UVA and UVC, UVB rays are key to Vitamin D3 synthesis, so any product should offer safe access.

While UV lights must be used sparingly to prevent skin issues in parrots, the Brazilian Society of Dermatology confirms that UV lamps don’t release dangerous radiation.

do parrots like being in the sun?

How Much Sunlight Does a Parrot Need?

Birds need 12 days of light per day, contrasted with 12 hours of darkness, to balance the circadian rhythm. Exposure to sunlight must be managed throughout these intervals.

Wild parrots instinctively seek shade when the sun is highest because it’s dangerous for birds to be constantly exposed to the sun’s heat and UV rays.

Parrots should enjoy at least 30 minutes of direct sunshine or under the lights of a UV lamp no less than three times per week. This is long enough to produce enough vitamin D3 for the bird to flourish.

Risks of Excessive Sunlight for Birds

Constant, unrelenting exposure to sunshine can cause a parrot to overheat, potentially leading to heatstroke, which can be fatal for pet parrots.

A body temperature above 104OF in a parrot is a medical emergency. Check for the following warning signs of a bird overheating. If you see them, remove the parrot from direct sunlight. These include:

Owners must also be mindful of melanomas and squamous cell carcinoma risks. These skin diseases arise when a bird spends excessive time in direct sun, with a poor prognosis if not detected and treated early.

According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, a parrot’s beak can also develop cancer.

Sunshine is essential for parrots, keeping them mentally and physically healthy. Ensure the parrot enjoys sufficient sunlight for Vitamin D3 synthesis while negating the risk of overheating.