UV light sets mood at Lincoln Park Zoo

January 14, 2008 3:22:38 PM PST
Forget the candlelight, the Lincoln Park Zoo's lovebirds want ultra violet. An experiment is underway at Lincoln Park Zoo's birdhouse that just might change the way birds in captivity live out their lives. New skylights were installed in October and they let in more light for the residents. But it isn't just any light -- now ultra violet light is streaming in.

"It's not exciting for us, I suppose, but birds can actually see UV lighting," said Dr. Megan Ross, general curator Lincoln Park Zoo. "Ultra Violet A light. And so for them they can see their environment the way they have always seen their environment in the wild."

Human beings see just three primary colors, but birds can see four colors when UV light is present. They can see their food better, other birds better --and it seems like they're just more content.

"It appears they do enjoy spending time in UV light and that they are active, more active. So if that's a measure of happier then that's probably true then," said Dr. Ross.

It's hoped the new skylights will give the birds a better, more natural life. And perhaps the birds will become more interested in the birds and the bees. There are some birds that, without ultra violet light, just don't know who's who. In some species males and females tell each other apart only when UV rays reflect off feathers.

"I imagine it would be challenging to breed if you can't tell who's a male and who's a female," said Dr. Ross.

So the new lights could mean new life at the birdhouse in the Lincoln Park Zoo.