The beak is used for eating, preening (cleaning feathers), defence, and communication, among other things. Since the beak is a multi-purpose tool for birds, helping them perform necessary actions, it is important to keep it healthy.
A bird’s beak constantly grows throughout its lifetime. It is made of bone and keratin (which is a component of human hair and nails). In the wild, the majority of birds wear down their beak during various activities, which prevents overgrowth. Birds in captivity may not wear their beaks enough to counteract the growth as they are not exposed to as wide a variety of food and surfaces. Just like human nails, these beaks may need to be trimmed.
What else could cause beak issues?
Overgrowth of the beak may be caused by something other than normal growth. It is why your veterinarian needs to conduct a thorough examination and history. If your veterinarian finds an underlying cause of the overgrowth, they will discuss the specifics of how to address it.
- Malocclusion – this is when the upper and lower parts of the beak do not line up correctly. It can be due to a genetic abnormality or injury.
- Improper Diet – nutritional imbalance (low vitamin A) may cause an overgrown beak. Please refer to our avian diet post for specifics on feeding your bird.
How does an overgrown beak affect the bird?
An overgrown beak may prevent the bird from eating normally. It can lead to weight loss and other health issues. If the beak is not corrected, the overgrowth can progress and cause further beak deformities (such as malocclusion).
It is NOT advised to trim your bird’s beak at home. It should be performed by a trained professional, your veterinarian, after evaluation of the patient. Special tools are used to trim/grind down the beak to the desired size and shape.
What can you do at home to help promote a healthy beak?
- Propper diet – the majority of the diet consisting of formulated pellets, few (if any) seeds.
- Provide a variety of perches – varying size and texture (no sandpaper). It will allow your bird to wear down their beak and nails.
- Provide a variety of toys – this provides entertainment, as well as wear down their beak.
- Monitor for any changes in colour, shape, or symmetry and contact your veterinarian with any concerns.
Written by: Dr. Nicole Mann, DVM