Watchbird January 2022


Infection Numerous viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic diseases can inter- rupt the normal growth and use of the beak. Many of these condi- tions can look similar so careful evaluation of any changes in growth is required. Thorough diagnostic testing is often required to determine the specific cause so treatment can be successful. A common condition seen in some of our smaller parrot species such as budgerigars is caused by the Scaly Leg and Face mite ( Knemidocoptes ). This disease can lead to significant abnormal growth of the keratin on the beak. If caught early, this mite can be successfully eradicated, and normal beak growth will return. Per- manent keratin abnormality may need ongoing beak management. (Fig. 7)

Figure 7 Severe infection with Knemidocoptes in a budgerigar

Bacterial and fungal infections associated with the beak are also common and should be managed as quick- ly as possible. Any discoloration or soft areas ( Fig. 8 ) noticed in the keratin of the beak should be evaluat- ed immediately as delay in treatment can lead to more severe disease and damage to the beak ( Fig. 9 ). Some beak infections cannot be treated successfully, and a parrot ’ s quality of life must be considered. Psit- tacine Beak and Feather Disease is a virus that interrupts the normal growth of the keratin of the beak and can lead to a painful and chronic abnormality of the beak. These birds typically have feather abnormalities and due to the contagious nature of this devastating disease, immediate quarantine and testing of suspected birds is essential.

Other Diseases Any condition that affects the overall health of a bird can result in an abnormal growth of the kera- tin of the beak. Parrots fed predominately seed diets are often deficient in nutrients such as Vita- min A which will adversely affect normal keratin production. Diseases involving the liver can mani- fest as beak abnormalities. In rare cases, tumors can arise from any portion of the beak and result in an interruption of the normal structure of the beak. Conclusion A healthy beak is critical to maintaining the overall health and well - being of a parrot. Careful inspec- tion of the beak is important and any change in color, shape, or use should be discussed with an experienced veterinarian. Prompt treatment of any beak disorder is critical to maintaining the normal function.

Figure 8 Bacterial infection on the upper beak of a half - moon conure

8 Volume XLVIX ● January 2022

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