As many of you are aware, I have been collecting data from lighting manufacturers to substantiate product claims, and rate relative efficiency vs cost factors. I had noted some time ago in independent studies (Gehrmann, W.H. 1997. “Reptile Lighting: A Current Perspective”. The Vivarium 8(2):44-45,62) that the OTT bioLight was roughly equivalent in outputs (a little less) to similar devices manufactured by Philips and General Electric.

The reason for this was made abundantly clear today in a response I received from OTT. I was informed after lengthy request for technical documentation that the OTT bioLight is manufactured for them by Philips Lighting, and has the same specs as the Philips line of full spectrum solutions, such as the Colortone 50 and 75 series of lights.

Only the 5000K series of either OTT or Philips is appropriate for avicultural use. The only benefit of OTT over Philips rests in emission control at the ends of the tubes themselves. This can be duplicated with a 2″ metal clips, and additional electromagnetic suppression given by a simple resistor/capacitor filter (such as what I have incorporated into the SpectraBird line) attached to the clip and grounded.

Cost analysis Philips vs OTT: 24″ lamp = $6.50*/17.95 (plus shipping), 48″ lamp = 3.25*/14.95 (plus shipping) *average hardware retail cost. The actual visual light outputs, performance maintenance, UVA and UVB irradiances, are exceeded by Vitalite and Lumichrome products. Something to think about when considering the cost of lighting options over advertised performance.

Cataracts Under normal nutritional intakes, birds are not at risk for cataract development from exposure to ultraviolet irradiation from the sun. Vitamin A provides a protective ‘coating’ on the cornea, lens, and is present in the rods and cones of the retina. This coating is an effective filter for preventing ultraviolet damage, while still allowing UVA transmission, which your bird sees.

Many problems arose in the early days of lighting and birdkeeping, where little was understood or practiced in the way of balanced nutrition. This was in combination with the use of reptile series fluorescent lamps which produce UVB for vitamin D synthesis in reptiles. It was simply too much for birds, and sometimes led to cataract formation, vitamin D toxicity, and retinal degeneration. Patrick Thrush

Here are responses to lighting questions as they appeared in Digest #66:

Easier then you can believe… your local Home depot! Phillips fluorescent *daylight* . The comparison that was established between the OTT and Philips product full spectrum products was not the Daylight or Daylight Deluxe (D/DX) series of tubes. The equivalent is the Philips Colortone 50/75full spectrum series. The Daylight series does not meet the criteria of being “full spectrum”, as it has a color temperature of 6500K (actinic) and a CRI (Color Rendition Index) of 79 (Daylight/D) or 84 (Daylight Deluxe/DX).

The label “Daylight” means nothing in terms of simulating visible sunlight. In order for a lamp to be considered a natural sunlight simulating “full spectrum”, it must have a color temperature of between 5000-5500K, and a CRI of at least 90. Only the Philips Colortone 50 meets this criteria, with a rating of 5000K/92 CRI. Of the Philips line (there is a more costly higher CRI lamp available, but I will not comment on that at this time) only the Colortone 50 (C50) line is appropriate for avicultural use.

is normal indoor lighting harmful for birds (especially those who have only limited access to natural > lighting)? And is full spectrum lighting available as a normal globe (i.e. not fluorescent)?

I know the pulsing action of fluorescent lighting is quite disturbing/harmful to many people While there is no such thing as “normal” indoor lighting, the vast majority of residential lighting is comprised of elements of filtered sunlight, incandescent and halogen sources, and ‘standard’ (low CRI) fluorescent fixtures. In and of itself, any mixture of this is not necessarily “bad” for birds, however it does not even remotely meet their needs.

Even sunlight filtered through screens and glass is missing the near (UVA) range of ultraviolet light. This wavelength has nothing to do with vitamin metabolism, which should not be a concern in a bird which receives proper nutrition. UVA is part of a bird’s visual range. Depriving them of it is very similar to color blindness in humans.

Incandescent and standard fluorescent sources should never be used as a lighting source for birds. There is not, nor ever will be an incandescent “globe” light which is appropriate for birds, or remotely “full spectrum”. The laws of physics prohibit it. Certain rare earth Neodymium bulbs are touted as being full spectrum, but they are no better in balanced spectral performance than a standard incandescent bulb. Their outputs will always be heavily loaded into the infrared, lacking in the blue (actinic), and dominantly xanthic (yellow and orange).

There are articles and comparison charts/graphs on these subjects posted on the Birds & Lighting website that I invite you to read to clarify these issues.

Flicker of fluorescent devices is due to one of several factors. Lamps which use the preheat technology (meaning that the fixture has a small starter can), and those which are in extremely cheap electromagnetic ballast fixtures are prone to flicker. This is why a good quality fixture, or an electronically ballasted fixture is best for all applications.

The secondary source of flicker is the decline of performance maintenance in tubes. For avicultural use, flicker can be avoided, and color balance preserved by changing out lamps every 9000 hours (2 years). Performance seriously declines after this time, and lamps are prone to current eddying effects (flicker). Even though a manufacturer rates a lamp at 20000 hours, all this ANSI standard means is that it is likely to cease functioning altogether at this time.

The effects you note as affecting people stem from the spectral composition of standard fluorescent devices. It was the discovery of this that led Dr. Ott to convince Duro-Test to manufacture the first true full spectrum device, the Vita-Lite. If you have an interest in this subject, you may wish to read John Ott’s book, “Health and Light”.

There is also some concern over electromagnetic radiation from fluorescents, but that issue is far outside the scope of this post. Ultimately only fluorescent devices which meet the criteria of the response given in the first reply are appropriate for avicultural use.

Sue does your plucked bird get any natural (outside) sunlight or artificial indoor sunlight? For some unknown reason, the bulk of the avicultural community chooses to ignore the fact that hookbill species are essentially undomesticated species that are heavily programmed biologically to respond to environmental stimuli and conditions.

Birds have a dual pathway of light perception which regulates hormonal and endocrine balance through both the pineal and pituitary glands. It is astonishing to me that the supply of light is hardly ever considered as a factor in behavioral anomalies, plucking behaviors, immuno-response deficit, and overall longevity of the captive bird.

Many of these problems have been soundly demonstrated to result from imbalances in lighting. Please read my Stepped Lighting Approach article for a further perspective on this matter. My suggestion for idiopathic plucking/picking behaviors is to incorporate a full spectrum lighting solution to the bird’s environment, examine and modify the nutritional composition of the diet, and possibly use a monochromatic red lamp source for several hours a day in addition to the full spectrum lighting.  Patrick Thrush

Mark (the vet I worked for) is also this area’s leading herp vet, so I learned a lot about full spectrum lighting and the need for it. Like reptiles, birds manufacture the vitamin D3, which aids the absorption of minerals (primarily calcium). Without the appropriate range of UVB light, D3 is not manufactured and most of the calcium – a very essential mineral especially for egg-laying birds – the bird gets goes to waste.

Many people think their birds get enough “light” by placing them near a window or under a skylight. Unfortunately, window glass filters out the very portion of the UVB spectrum that is needed for D3 production, and sunlight through windows is almost totally useless. It only takes about 30 minutes a day of unfiltered (raw? ) sunlight, but even that is impractical for most of us. There are differences in the quality of “full spectrum” lights – one indicator is the rating on the bulb that states how closely its spectrum matches sunlight. The higher the number, the better – the best are “98” I think.

Based on what Mark recommends to bird clients, I would say that Ott lites, Vitalites, and Chromalux bulbs all work. Reptile lights that truly are full spectrum (NOT reptile basking lights) should work as well – but most of them produce a considerable amount of heat which is good for the reptiles but not necessarily good for birds – unless you’re using it to set up a hospital cage, which isn’t a bad idea and works fine.

I have found the GE “Sunshine” bulbs at Home Depot and they are astonishingly inexpensive – but I am suspicious of them. They do say full spectrum on them, but they don’t list their equivalency to sunlight and I haven’t been able to find specs on them. I suppose, if one is limited financially, they are probably better than ordinary incandescent or fluorescent lighting.

For best results, a full spectrum bulb should be placed within 2 feet (optimal) or at least 4 feet of the bird, and should be turned on for at least eight hours a day (even the best bulbs are much weaker than real sunlight).  Heike

There is alot of information on Birds and Lighting at this site…. Birds and Lighting General Index Linda