Watchbird January 2022


Understanding Problems with Your Parrot’s Beak By Kimberly Roset, DVM ABC Animal and Bird Clinic Sugarland, Texas Anatomy Overview The psittacine beak is one of the parrot ’ s most recognizable and distinct characteristics. The entire beak is known as the rostrum and can be divided into the upper beak (maxillary rostrum) and lower beak (mandibular rostrum). It consists of bone and internal tissues covered by a thin layer of keratin similar to our fingernails. This keratin layer is what we are able to see, and the upper portion is referred to as the rhinothe- ca while the lower portion is called the gnathotheca. Movement of the beak also makes parrots very unique in the bird world. They can use their beaks to do eve- rything from climbing, cracking nuts, preening feathers, and even carefully peeling the skin off a grape. Un- like many other birds, parrots have independent control of the upper and lower beak which is controlled by numerous bones, muscles, and joints. This complexity can lead to problems if there is an abnormality in- volving any portion of the beak or support structures. The normal parrot beak does not need regular trimming or shaping. Diet and environmental enrichment are all that is needed to maintain a normal appearance and use of the beak. Any overgrowth or loss of symmetry in the keratin of the beak is cause for concern and immediate evaluation by an experienced veterinarian is recommended.

Common Conditions Developmental Abnormalities

Many birds develop abnormal beak alignment during incuba- tion and the resulting beak deformities are often apparent soon after hatching. These present most often as a scissor or elonga- tion of the upper or lower beak. The portions of the beak that do not meet properly will result in keratin overgrowth. If caught early enough, there are surgical procedures that can of- fer some improvement but most of these birds will need correc- tive shaping throughout their lives. Any arthritic changes or imbalance in the joints controlling the movement of the beak can also create an abnormal wear pattern. While both of these cases will need intermittent trimming, adding environmental enrichment which promotes wear can help maintain the normal function of the beak. Young cockatoo with a congenital scissor

Trauma Numerous hazards exist in the environment which can result in injuries to the beak. The most common causes occur from falls, toys, or other birds in the household. Many of these injuries are minor but often pain- ful for the parrot. The most common beak trauma is a chip on the tip of the beak after an unsuccessful flight attempt. These injuries can be diffi- cult to see so evaluation of even minor bleeding should be done to make sure the bird can continue to eat appropriately and the pain is controlled. Some of the most severe beak traumas occur when there is an unfavora- ble interaction between 2 birds in the household .

Beak trauma in a golden conure from a cockatoo

6 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022 6

Made with FlippingBook Digital Publishing Software