A parrot is a unique and beautiful animal, and having one as a pet is also a wonderful experience. A parrot can also present its own set of challenges when it comes to pet care. For example, how can you best care for a parrot with an injured beak? And what are some preventative measures you can take? In this article, we will be taking a look at some things you can do to keep your parrot’s beak happy and healthy. Your parrot will thank you.
The Basics of Parrot Beak Care
Before we begin, it’s important to understand some basic points about a parrot’s beak. Their beak is their main utensil for performing many different tasks. Whether you have a majestic Macaw or a proud Parakeet, they all share similar beak traits.
A parrot’s beak features several different sections of various levels of thickness and hardness. The portion of the upper beak where the nostrils are located (called the Cere) is generally softer than the rest of the beak. The beak will gradually grow out from the Cere to the tip and continues growing throughout the parrot’s life. Daily use of the beak through chewing food and gentle grinding against rough surfaces keeps beak size under control.
This grinding or rubbing behavior which serves to control the beak size is also one of the main culprits of injury to the parrot’s beak. Along with disease, regular rubbing and grinding can cause cuts, deeper lesions, and even some infections. Of course, if you suspect something is wrong with your parrot, it is always best to consult your veterinarian.
Having said that, there are some steps you can take at home. So let’s take a look at ways to prevent and treat these issues.
Check if the Beak is Weak
The first step is to determine what kind of injury (if any) your feathered friend has sustained. It is normal for the beak to peel or flake at certain times during the year. This is part of the beak growth and renewal process.
Excessive peeling or a soft, weak beak can be a sign of malnutrition – specifically a vitamin deficiency. Providing your Polly with various kinds of fruits can often supply missing vitamins into their diet.
Another cause of beak weakness could be an infection that may or may not be accompanied by discoloration, or “wear-lines” on the beak. The beak may also be painful, which may hinder the parrot’s movement or cause a loss of appetite.
In most cases, if the beak is infected, medical treatment will usually be required. Your veterinarian will provide details on whether your parrot will need additional safeguards during treatment, such as special feeding or movement restrictions.
If the Beak is Broken
A broken beak is typically an indication that some kind of trauma has occurred. In home environments where the parrot is less likely to be physically attacked, this can still happen through regular activities. As mentioned earlier, birds use their beaks in a variety of ways, not only for eating but also to assist in movement. If they latch onto something with their beak the wrong way, a tear can occur and is actually rather common.
During an inspection, if you notice that part of the beak is broken but still somewhat together, it is advisable to leave the broken piece in place. By attempting to dislodge the broken piece, you will most likely make the situation worse and recovery more difficult. In rare cases, a parrot can die if the beak injury if severe enough.
Special Consideration for Bleeding Beaks
Whether the beak appears to be broken or not, bleeding is a sign of a severe condition. The immediate threat comes from the blood loss itself. Parrot beaks have very rich veins, which means that they can lose a lot of blood in a short amount of time. This makes the risk of bleeding out very high if the hemorrhaging isn’t taken care of quickly.
The area can be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide to help disinfect the wound. However, in many cases, this is only an emergency stop-gap measure, and veterinary care is needed. Keep your parrot warm, apply gentle but firm pressure to slow the bleeding, and seek professional assistance immediately.
Cancer of the Beak
While highly unlikely, parrots can develop beak cancer. This can present with a variety of symptoms, such as discoloration and tumors on the beak itself. The key to dealing with cancer in parrots, just as with humans, is early detection. The sooner that cancer can be detected, the probability of success regarding treatment is higher.
Beak tumors can often be removed through surgical procedures, and your veterinarian can suggest other treatments such as diet changes if needed.
Other Beak Abnormalities
Much like humans, genetics can also play a part in the beak development process. Unfortunately, sometimes a parrot’s beak will develop in an abnormal way, such as being misaligned or misshapen. With an overgrown beak, for example, effective treatment can be made through careful trimming of the beak. This should be done by a professional avian surgeon, as bird beaks contain many blood vessels and are quite sensitive.
Other beak disfigurements can be more complicated, and in some situations, no effective treatment exists. Evaluations need to be made on a case-by-case basis. If you have a specific concern regarding an abnormality of your parrot, talk with your veterinarian about your concerns.
An Ounce of Prevention
There’s a famous saying that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The idea is that it’s always easier to prevent something than it is to cure it afterward. In the case of parrot beak care, that saying still holds true. Many of the common parrot beak injuries mentioned above (except for genetic abnormalities) can be prevented more often than not. Here are some simple preventative steps to help keep your parrot safe.
Parrot-proof your home
Your parrot is safely in its cage most of the time, but there may also be times when it needs to stretch its wings a bit. During these times, some household elements can pose a particular risk to your winged companion.
In general, many things you might consider for young children and toddler safety also apply to birds. Items such as candles, electrical outlets, fireplaces, and stoves are things that you want to secure before letting your Polly go flying.
Other things that may not seem so obvious are mirrors, houseplants, and scented air sprayers. These things can be very dangerous to birds as well. While it may sound like something out of an animated cartoon, birds will often fly directly into a mirror, injuring themselves in the process. So it may be best to cover mirrors during flight time.
Many houseplants are actually quite toxic to parrots as well. A few little innocent nibbles from a leaf can be enough to cause major illnesses. Check your specific type of plant and parrot to ensure it is safe before letting your parrot loose.
Scented air sprayers are dangerous for a couple of reasons. Many of them contain chemicals that are deadly to birds. You can find these warnings printed on the labels, but not always. Be sure to check your specific sprayer ahead of time to avoid any harm to your parrot.
The other danger comes from those scented air sprayers with timers. While a rare occurrence, these can actually spray directly into a bird in flight, causing injury. Again, as a precautionary measure, it’s best to turn your automatic sprayer off during your parrot’s free flight time.
Give your parrot a bone
A cuttlebone, that is. Despite the name, a cuttlebone is not actually a bone but is the shell of a cuttlefish. Many bird owners have found that these have a positive effect on their bird’s beak health. By placing the cuttlebone in your parrot’s cage, they can safely use it to trim their beak and chew on it for some extra calcium. Some birds like it more than others, but it’s worth a try.
Keep Your Parrot’s Beak at Its Peak
As we have seen, with some basic prevention, your parrot will be in good shape and whistling happy songs for a long time to come. And by taking action ahead of time, many common injuries can be avoided entirely. So now you know how to keep your parrot’s beak in top condition. That’s worth a cracker, we’d say!