Without access to the sun’s rays, parrots become unhappy and unhealthy.
Parrots use sunshine to make vitamin D3, which is vital for calcium absorption. In turn, calcium promotes bone and muscle strength and good reproductive health. Sunlight also keeps parrots’ feathers clean and parasite-free, and exposure to sunlight improves sleep.
When letting your parrot enjoy the sun, ensure that shade is always available. Also, if you’re using artificial light to replace natural sunlight, it must be a specific type of UV light.
Is Sun Good for Parrots?
Sunshine is undisputedly good for parrots. You only need to look at a parrot in its wild habitat to determine that sunlight is good for parrots.
Most parrots originate from South America, Africa, or Australia, where the sun is very hot, and there are plenty of hours of sunlight each day.
Sunlight is so good for parrots because it helps them to generate vitamin D3.
According to Science Direct, parrots release sebum via their uropygial gland, which contains Vitamin D precursors. This sebum is released onto their feathers.
Then, when the sun shines on this sebum, it converts its precursor to vitamin D3, and the parrot ingests vitamin D3 by preening itself.
Here are the most significant benefits of sunlight for parrots:
Sunlight is essential for parrots because it helps them absorb calcium. Calcium is a vital mineral in which pet parrots, especially African Greys, are often deficient.
When sunlight is absorbed into the parrot’s feathers, it is converted into vitamin D3 and ingested through preening. According to Research Gate, vitamin D3 regulates the absorption and excretion of calcium and phosphorous.
In a parrot’s diet, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be about 2:1. Unfortunately, some pet parrots don’t get enough calcium, creating an imbalance.
For example, a seed-rich diet contains little calcium and lots of phosphorus. Also, the imbalance will deteriorate further if vitamin D3 (from the sun) is lacking.
The worst-case scenario would be a pet parrot fed a seed-rich diet and not exposed to sunlight. These types of birds will likely have a calcium deficiency.
Giving your parrot enough sunlight (and a good diet) will protect against nutrient deficiencies.
Calcium is needed for strong and healthy bones.
Juvenile parrots need enough calcium to prevent a condition called osteodystrophy. According to BSAVA, osteodystrophy is essentially the malfunctioning of bones.
Sunlight also helps to prevent osteoporosis (fragile bones) in breeding parrots.
Regarding breeding, sunlight helps prevent egg binding (dystocia). According to VCA hospitals, egg binding is when a female parrot can’t release her clutch of eggs, which can be fatal.
Why does sunlight help to prevent egg binding? Sunlight boosts the parrot’s vitamin D3, which is necessary for creating healthy eggs. This means they’ll no longer be weak and misshapen.
Also, vitamin D3 and calcium promote muscle strength and tone, allowing a female parrot to expel eggs from her cloaca more easily.
Sunning keeps the feathers clean and healthy. According to Royal Society Publishing, UVA/B rays and the heat of the sun can kill some ectoparasites, insects, and their larvae.
Even if the sun doesn’t kill the insects directly, it might encourage them to move around on the parrot’s feathers. This makes it easier for the parrot to peck away at these unwelcome visitors.
In any case, the sun prompts parrots to groom and preen themselves. So, if your parrot’s feathers look worn, some sun exposure will be beneficial.
Vitamin D3 (from sunshine) is vital for a healthy immune system. Indeed, a female breeding parrot needs to get enough sunlight during pregnancy.
The vitamin D she obtains from the sun will help her to produce a hormonal compound called calcitriol. Calcitriol is needed for her chicks to develop strong immune systems.
Sleep And Behavior
Access to natural light during the day (and darkness at night) helps maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. If a parrot has some natural sunlight during the day, it’ll sleep better at night.
How Much Sun Do Parrots Need?
Although parrots in the wild would see 8-12 hours of sunlight per day, they wouldn’t be out in the direct sun all this time. Wild parrots will often take shade throughout the day.
Most vets agree that giving your parrot between 15 and 30 minutes of natural sunlight per day is the ideal minimum requirement for health.
The basic requirements per species are shown in the table below:
|Species||Origin||Direct sun exposure requirements (per day)|
|African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus)||West and Central Africa||At least 30 minutes – must include UVB|
|Yellow-crowned Amazon (Amazona)||Americas||15 minutes|
|Budgies (Melopsittacus undulatus)||Australia||15 minutes|
|Blue-throated Macaw (Ara glaucogularis)||Bolivia||20 minutes|
The table shows one of the key differences between African Grey Parrots and most other parrot species.
African Greys need a bit more sun than other breeds, as evidenced by the fact that they have fewer feathers on their face, making it easier to absorb more sunlight.
According to MSD, African Greys also need more UVB light than other species to get enough calcium, and this explains why African Greys seem the most vulnerable to calcium deficiency.
Can UV Light Replace Direct Sunlight for Parrots?
According to a study by BioOne, parrots exposed to natural sunlight engaged in less feather-picking than parrots kept under UV light. However, the difference in feather picking wasn’t statistically significant.
Most vets would believe that UV lighting for your parrot is okay, but you must get the right UVA/B equipment. Also, you should take your parrot outside into the sun when you get the opportunity.
Sunlight from a window isn’t sufficient and will probably overheat your parrot. To understand which UV light you’ll need, we’ll explore the types of UV in sunlight.
UVA for Parrots
UVA is the spectrum of light that’s most like visible light. Most of the UV created by the sun is considered UVA. It’s important for a parrot’s vision and to keep its plumage healthy.
UVB for Parrots
UVB is another type of wavelength that, along with UVA, helps parrots see in full color. UVB is also used to create and store vitamin D3.
As mentioned, African Greys need more UVB than some other species to get enough vitamin D3.
Choosing a UV Light for Parrots
Since a parrot needs UVA and UVB, opt for full-spectrum lighting.
Nevertheless, according to Exotic Direct, some people sell so-called full-spectrum lights that don’t emit UV rays. These won’t help your parrot create vitamin D3, so they’re not useful.
In addition, when purchasing a lamp for your parrot, you should:
- Check the UV symbol is on the packaging.
- Choose a lamp with a daylight rating of between 4200 and 8000 (on the Kelvin scale).
- Check the Color Rendering Index (CRI) – it should be over 90.
Can Parrots Get Sunburn?
Parrots can get burned if you install their UV light too close to the cage, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. You should provide shade spots so a parrot can self-regulate its temperature.
Also, you should avoid placing your parrot’s cage near a window, as the heat can be very dangerous.
Can Parrots Get Vitamin D from Supplements?
Supplementation is one way to increase your parrot’s vitamin D intake. In this case, you should opt for vitamin D3 rather than vitamin D, as D3 is a more active vitamin D.
That said, a study by Meridian found that sunlight was a more effective way of increasing vitamin D in parrots than dietary supplements. Also, it’s possible to overdose when using synthetic vitamins.
For this reason, sunlight is the best and most natural source of vitamin D3.