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key Þo|nt: No matter how deformed or overgrown a beak appears, |t a|most
never prevents a b|rd from eat|ng.


1he beak |nc|udes the bones of the upper and |ower [aws and the|r kerat|n|zed
sheaths or rhamphotheca. 1h|s horny cover|ng funct|ona||y rep|aces the ||ps and
teeth. 1here |s tremendous var|at|on |n the shape of the beak depend|ng on
how d|fferent spec|es feed and ||ve. In ps|ttac|nes, the upper beak |s mass|ve
and curved, whereas the |ower beak |s sma|| and horse-shaped. 1h|s |s why
parrots are ca||ed hook b|||s. A parrot's beak |s adapted to crack|ng |arge nuts
and seeds as we|| as tear|ng and shredd|ng wood from trees to prov|de nest
s|tes. It |s a|so used for grasp|ng, c||mb|ng, preen|ng, and d|sp|ay|ng. It can be a
form|dab|e weapon yet a|so funct|on as a de||cate utens|| for feed|ng newborn

M|croscop|ca||y, the horny beak resemb|es sk|n, cons|st|ng of derm|s and a
mod|f|ed ep|derm|s. 1he ep|derm|s |s very th|ck and |ts ce||s conta|n free
ca|c|um phosphate and hydroxyapat|te crysta|s, |n add|t|on to abundant kerat|n.
1h|s |s what he|ps make the beak so hard. kerat|n |s an |nso|ub|e prote|n and |s
the pr|nc|pa| const|tuent of the ep|derm|s |n ha|r, na||s, and the beak.

1he outer |ayers of the beak are cont|nuous|y be|ng rep|aced by norma| wear
and tear. Many b|rd owners erroneous|y be||eve that the upper beak grows
from the cere and cont|nues to the t|p (or edges) where |t |s then worn off
(||kew|se w|th the |ower beak). Cn the contrary, beak t|ssue grows cont|nuous|y
outward (towards the surface) over much of the beak. As the kerat|n|zed
ep|the||um reaches the surface, |t |s e|ther worn off or may move d|sta||y a short
d|stance before |t |s |ost. Cn|y towards the edges and t|p does the beak t|ssue
tru|y move rostra||y.

1he surface of the beak |n [uven||e parrots |s smooth because the growth |s new.
nowever, as the b|rd reaches |ts f|rst year and o|der, the beak takes on a more
|rregu|ar appearance. 1h|s |s a resu|t of the norma| wear|ng off of the outer
kerat|n |ayers. Somet|mes these |ayers f|ake off or pee|, |eav|ng beh|nd |edges
on the beak's surface. 1hese |edges are what make the beak |ook rough and
sca|y. 1hese |edges can a|so be m|s|nterpreted as cracks, wh|ch they are not.
now |rregu|ar a b|rd's beak appears can a|so be re|ated to d|et. A d|et |ow |n
v|tam|n A (seeds |ack V|tam|n A) can |ead to hyperkeratos|s, wh|ch c||n|ca||y
causes the beak to become th|ckened and overgrown. Such beaks can appear
very sca|y. 1he beak can a|so appear rough |f the b|rd does not adequate|y rub
|t on hard |nan|mate ob[ects, such as a |ava stone or concrete and sand perches.

Þart of the phys|ca| exam|nat|on of each b|rd |nc|udes an eva|uat|on of the beak.
Most hea|thy parrots have beaks |n wh|ch the surface |s s||ght|y |rregu|ar and
the t|p a b|t |ong. Such b|rds often rece|ve a "cosmet|c" beak tr|m. A cosmet|c
tr|m |s not necessary for the hea|th of the b|rd, but by do|ng so, the b|rd |ooks
better, wh|ch |n turn makes the c||ent more apprec|at|ve.

Some b|rds have a patho|og|c cond|t|on wh|ch can change the norma| outward
appearance of the beak and affect some beak funct|ons. In such cases
"correct|ve" beak tr|mm|ng |s necessary. As|de from |os|ng the ent|re upper or
|ower beak due to traumat|c |n[ury, overgrowth or deform|ty of the beak rare|y
affects a b|rd's ab|||ty to eat.

8eak tr|mm|ng |s accomp||sh|ng us|ng a var|ety of too|s, |nc|ud|ng human na||
tr|mmers, cut|c|e cutters, and a hobby too| (Dreme|). 1he preferred dreme| too|
|s e|ectr|c and var|ab|e speed. A course con|ca| gr|nd|ng stone (#9S2) |s the on|y
b|t th|s author uses no matter the s|ze of the pat|ent. Dreme| too|s and
accessory stones are |nexpens|ve (569 and 53) and can be purchased at Wa|-
Mart, nome Depot, Lowe's, and most other hardware stores.

Anesthes|a (|sof|urane gas) |s not requ|red for beak tr|mm|ng, but |t sure makes
|t eas|er and |ess stressfu|, both for the veter|nar|an and h|s ass|stant, and for
the b|rd. Cne shou|d be aware that fu||y awake b|rds can stress eas||y dur|ng
th|s procedure, espec|a||y when us|ng a dreme| too|, and deaths have been
reported. 8|rds are usua||y he|d |n a towe|. Cne shou|d a|so be very carefu| not
to compress the b|rd too t|ght|y wh|ch can adverse|y affect breath|ng and heart

1he fo||ow|ng photographs show v|v|d examp|es of norma| and abnorma| beaks
that were seen by the author.

I|gs 1 and 2: 1r|mm|ng a b|rd's beak dur|ng a rout|ne exam|nat|on. Iace masks
are worn to prevent |nha|at|on of beak dust. 1he b|rd's body |s he|d w|th a towe|
by an ass|stant. 1he vet secures the head w|th one hand and w|th the other,
ho|ds a dreme| too| wh|ch |s used to smooth out the beak surface and edges.

I|gs 3 and 4: 8|ue-crowned conure show|ng a typ|ca| "cosmet|c" beak tr|m. In
the f|rst p|cture, the beak surface appears a ||tt|e rough and sca|y and the t|ps
are a b|t |ong. After tr|mm|ng the surface |s smooth and the edges c|eaned up
and shortened. 1he beak appears sh|nny due to the app||cat|on of m|nera| o||.

I|g S: n¥ÞLkkLkA1CSIS ked-headed Amazon parrot. 2S+ years o|d and fed a
d|et of seeds on|y. nyperkeratos|s due to |ow v|tam|n A has caused th|cken|ng
of the upper beak. Not|ce the two beak |ayers towards the t|p.the |nner |ayer
|s the norma| one. ¥e||ow feathers on head are abnorma| due to ma|nutr|t|on.

I|g 6 and 7: ked-headed Amazon parrot w|th severe overgrowth of the upper
beak, before and after tr|mm|ng. 8|rd fed seed d|et on|y. 8|rd was st||| ab|e to
eat. Not|ce that the |ower beak |s norma|. Seeds are hu||ed us|ng the front of
the |ower beak edge aga|nst the unders|de of the upper beak.

I|g 8 and 9: Lxamp|es of beak hyperkeratos|s due to ma|nutr|t|on re|ated to
Iatty L|ver D|sease |n a Çuaker parakeet and 8|ue and Go|d macaw. 8oth b|rds
were overwe|ght. 1he macaw's beak has become necrot|c.

I|g 10 and 11: Severe beak hyperkeratos|s w|th necros|s |n a Severe macaw that
was gross|y overwe|ght. Not|ce fatty tumors |n abdom|na| reg|on of th|s obese

I|g 12 and 13: 1wo other examp|es of severe hyperkeratos|s |n a 8|ue-fronted
Amazon and a Doub|e ¥e||ow-headed Amazon parrot. 1he ¥e||ow-headed
parrot a|so has kerat|n|zat|on on the unders|de of the tongue. 1h|s cond|t|on |s
known as Woody 1ongue.

I|g 14 and 1S: 1kAUMA 1C 1nL 8LAk. 8aby b|rds are prone to mut||at|on by
the|r parents. If 1]3 of the beak or |ess |s removed, the beak w||| grow back
norma||y. If more than 1]3 of the beak |s |ost, |t may |ook ||ke th|s Amazon
parrot. Mate aggress|on can occur |n breed|ng pa|rs, espec|a||y Cockatoos.
1h|s fema|e Umbre||a cockatoo's beak was severe|y damaged by the ma|e.

I|g 16 and 17: A mut||ated 8|ue and Go|d macaw (by parent b|rds when th|s
b|rd was a baby) has resu|ted |s a severe|y d|storted sc|ssor beak. 1he b|rd may
|ook UGL¥, but |t eats f|ne.|n fact she |s fat! nea|ed, damaged upper beak and
cere |n a M|tred conure as a resu|t of an encounter w|th another, |arger b|rd.

I|g 18 and 19: Sp||t |ower beak (r|ght on the m|d||ne) |n a 8|ue-fronted Amazon.
1he two free|y movab|e p|eces cannot be reattached. Surpr|s|ng|y th|s causes no
prob|em w|th eat|ng. A Wh|te-eyed conure w|th a sp||t |ower beak on the |eft
s|de. k|ght |ower beak sect|on has e|ongated and r|sen to a |eve| above the cere.

I|g 20 and 21: Green-cheeked conure who's upper beak was comp|ete|y b|tten
off by a cockatoo. If th|s b|rd was a seed eater, |t wou|d probab|y not adapt to a
pe||eted d|et |n t|me to surv|ve. Iortunate|y th|s b|rd was a pe||et eater and has
surv|ved for more than 1 year. Çuaker parakeet show|ng permanent scarr|ng
from a prev|ous |n[ury near the cere.

I|g 22 and 23 INDLN1A1ICN CI 1nL LCWLk 8LAk |n Afr|can Greys. 1he cause
of th|s cond|t|on wh|ch deve|ops |n some adu|t CAG's |s unknown. 1he |ower
beak e|ongates, wh|ch |n turn causes the upper beak to grow out to reach over
the end of the |ower beak. After tr|mm|ng, the |ndentat|on |s c|ear|y v|s|b|e.

I|g 24 and 2S: SCISSCk 8LAk |s a cond|t|on where the upper beak |s bent to one
s|de resu|t|ng |n overgrowth of the |ower beak on the other s|de. Causes may
|nc|ude hered|ty, |ncubat|on prob|ems, ma|nutr|t|on, |nfect|on, and trauma.
Incorrect feed|ng techn|ques |n baby b|rds have a|so been |ncr|m|nated.

I|g 26 and 27: Severe|y overgrown sc|ssor beak |n a Mo|uccan cockatoo before
and after tr|mm|ng.

I|g 28 and 29: Very bad sc|ssor beak |n a 8|ue-crowned Amazon parrot before
and after tr|mm|ng. 1he t|p of the |ower beak was [ust touch|ng the sk|n of the
neck. 1h|s was a breeder b|rd.she was hav|ng no d|ff|cu|ty eat|ng.

I|g 30 and 31: Grotesque sc|ssor beak |n a |oveb|rd secondary to upper
resp|ratory |nfect|on on the b|rd's |eft s|de. After the scab |s removed, an
eroded nasa| and s|nus cav|ty rema|ns. Act|ve |nfect|on |s |n rem|ss|on.

I|g 32 and 33: CkACkS |n the front of the |ower beak are not uncommon,
espec|a||y |n M|n|-macaws and Iard|nes. 1hey rare|y extend more than x |nch
downward and w||| never cause the |ower beak to sp||t |n ha|f. 1hey can be
most|y ground out w|th a dreme| by shorten|ng the front edge of the |ower
beak. Amazon parrot w|th a b|zarre, chron|c part|a||y sp||t |ower beak.

I|g 34 and 3S: INILC1ICN 8eak rot secondary to Þs|ttac|ne 8eak and Ieather
D|sease (Þ8ID) v|rus |n a severe|y affected Cockatoo. 8acter|a| |nfect|on
(abscess) |n the nasa| cav|ty extend|ng |nto the upper beak caus|ng swe|||ng and

I|g 36 and 37: CANCLk Squamous ce|| carc|noma |nvo|v|ng the |ower beak
|ead|ng to overgrown of the upper beak. 1he end of the upper beak had
punctured through the sk|n of the neck. 1h|s b|rd was euthan|zed. Sma|| ben|gn
sk|n tumor occurr|ng at the comm|ssure of the beak that was eas||y removed.

I|g 38 and 39: MANDI8ULAk ÞkCGNA1nISM. A congen|ta| beak deform|ty
occas|ona||y seen |n ch|cks, espec|a||y cockatoos, |n wh|ch the upper beak grows
downward, |ns|de the |ower beak. Correct|ve tr|mm|ng, app|y|ng tract|on or
tape sp||nts to stretch out the upper beak, and denta| acry||c prostheses are a||
treatment techn|ques that may be used. Correct|ve tr|mm|ng shown here.

I|g 40 and 41: LCCkIAW 1h|s Goff|n cockatoo has an arthr|t|c beak cond|t|on
wh|ch causes the bones of the [aws to become comp|ete|y |mmob||e when the
beak edges come together. Iood gets |nto the mouth on|y through the gape |n
the beak. 1r|mm|ng 3x a year opens th|s gape and a||ows ||m|ted movement.

I|g 42 and 43: MISCLLLANLCUS nar|equ|n macaw that was rescued show|ng
severe e|ongat|on of the upper beak. 8efore and after p|ctures of a "correct|ve"

I|g 44 and 4S: 8udger|gar |nfected w|th sca|y-face m|tes. Note honey-combed
encrustat|ons around eye, on cere, and edge of beak. 8eak |nvo|vement can
cause severe deform|ty. 8|ue and Go|d Macaw show|ng s|gns of a||ergy.p|nk,
puffy cere w|th sk|n excor|at|on around nares and dr|ed nasa| d|scharge on beak.