Pet Q&A: Is lighting linked to birds' feather woes?

01/24/2012 12:00 AM

01/23/2012 3:58 PM

Are fluorescent lights bad for birds? I have read online that they cause feather-picking.

– Via email

I asked board-certified avian specialist Dr. Brian Speer (my "Birds for Dummies" co-author) for help with this one. He has his doubts that there's any problem with having birds in rooms lit by energy- saving compact fluorescent lights.

"Although there is a different flicker frequency that birds see as compared to ourselves, there is no confirmed direct causation between feather-damaging behavior and fluorescent lighting," says Speer, who owns the Medical Center for Birds, a birds-only practice in the Northern California town of Oakley.

He doesn't rule out fluorescent lights completely, however, at least as a contributory factor to the problem. Feather-picking is complex behavior, he stresses.

"This type of light may function as a stressor, and it is possible that some stressors may trigger anxiety," says Speer. "Anxiety may be addressed by displacement behavioral activities, and of these, feather damage could be seen.

"But this is a bit of a simplistic 'cause and effect' assumption for a problem that more often than not is multifactorial in nature," he says.

Stopping feather-picking, in other words, will remain a difficult road for many bird owners, with a lot of strategies employed along the way to find the magic ingredients to the cure – if it can be found at all.

– Gina Spadafori

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