Ask Lafeber


April 30, 2020

UV Lights

Do you recommend UV lights for hormonal and plucking issues?


Dear Mary,

Feather plucking is a difficult problem and birds pluck their feathers for a variety of reasons. The most important thing that you can do is have a good behavioral and physical exam with an avian veterinarian that has a long standing interest in feather damaging behavior. There can be behavioral issues that may be the cause of it and there can also be something physical. Your avian vet will need to recommend a variety of tests. Currently one test that may be of help is the avian bornavirus test that includes the AGAA or antiganglioside antibody test. There are a number of parrot species that pluck that test positive on this test combination. It is thought that inflammation from the lymphocytes that affect part of the nerves or spinal cord may be involved in this process of damage – like nerve pain that diabetics get. However, there may be other factors as well.

You asked about light and full spectrum lighting is always of benefit to our birds as they are able to see into the ultraviolet spectrum. The use of a full spectrum light lets them “see” as if outside. Try not to use any fluorescent lights, only incandescent lights. This is because birds also have a very fast flicker frequency. That means that they can see very fast flickers of light as flickers. With fluorescent lights, they see them as a strobe light, not a continuous light without flickering. This can help them in general but there is no scientific information regarding the use of these lights only for feather damage. When parrots that had been plucked were placed outside in large outdoor aviaries, many of them reduced their plucking. However, most likely it related to them in large flights outdoors. Getting them out of their cages and flying is a great idea for those that pluck. Showering them and adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar to cut down on possible yeasts on the feathers or skin will also be of benefit.  I hope that some of these ideas help but it is best to do them in the context of working with your avian vet to provide a plan based on your parrot with its particular underlying problems.

Good luck to you and your bird!

Susan Orosz PhD, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian), Dipl ECZM (Avian)

Bird and Exotic Pet Wellness Center, Toledo, Ohio

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