In a recent article I reviewed the basics of light quality as it relates to the health of pet birds. Another aspect of lighting deserving careful consideration is your bird’s photoperiod, or the length of its day and night. The vast majorities of birds kept as pets are native to tropical habitats, and are exposed to 10 to 12 hours of darkness within each 24-hour period. Birds ranging into temperate areas will, in the wild, be exposed to photoperiods that vary with the seasons. Your most prudent course would be to carefully research the natural ranges of the bird species that you keep, and to provide them with a photoperiod that approximates that of their natural habitat. By using light timers, you can gradually increase or decrease daylight throughout the year in a natural, cyclical pattern. This was one of the first lessons I learned when working with birds in zoos, and I found that careful research definitely resulted in healthier birds and in increased breeding successes.
A common problem for pet birds is the fact that they are, in most cases, tied to their owners’ schedules as concerns day length. We are, as a rule, awake much longer than most tropical birds should be. Parrots and many other birds need at least 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. All species with which I have worked proved to be very light sleepers, quick to awaken with the slightest disturbance. Depriving your pet of sleep will very likely weaken its immune system, and render the animal susceptible to a host of ailments. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to behavioral problems in parrots, such as feather picking and screaming. As many species are stimulated to reproduce by the advent of longer days, chronic egg-laying may occur in birds that are not given enough hours of darkness each night.
In order to accommodate your bird’s needs, you may need to move the cage to an isolated room for sleeping. This room should be as quiet as possible and the windows equipped with thick curtains to limit outside light. By setting the room lights on a timer, you can control your bird’s photoperiod so as to make it relatively independent of what is going on in the rest of the house.
Day length manipulation is a breeding tool that has long been used by hobbyists and in the zoo and poultry breeding industries. I will cover specific techniques in a future article.
An interesting article concerning avian photoperiods is posted at:
To read more about bird lighting, check out this article from Frank’s archive: