What are Beak Deformities?

The occurrence of beak deformities in birds is not limited to just a few geographical areas. These deformities are becoming prevalent across the world and raises significant concern regarding environmental factors in areas most heavily affected, such as Alaska, the Yukon, and the Pacific Northwest.

Most commonly documented birds that are affected by beak deformities include the black-capped chickadee and the Northwestern crow. Birds with deformed beaks have a decreased ability to feed and clean themselves. 

A healthy beak should be smooth and symmetrical in appearance. There should not be any unusual textures on the beak or discolored areas. The upper beak and lower beak should be properly aligned and of the proper length. Most commonly occurring unhealthy or abnormal beaks will be scissors beak, overgrown or a parrot beak. 

Most cases of beak deformities are found in wild birds. Although, there have been several cases in domesticated birds, most of those cases were linked to poor nutrition or trauma.

Beak deformities in birds, or avian keratin disorder, have increased significantly over the past decade. Beak deformities can range from slightly misshapen beaks to severely elongated and misshapen beaks.

Book First Walk Free!

Symptoms of Beak Deformities in Birds

It is quite obvious in many severe cases when your bird’s beak is deformed. Simple observation of the beak and comparing it to birds of the same species will determine if your bird’s beak is deformed. 

If you suspect that your bird is suffering from a beak deformity, contact your veterinarian for an appointment. While a beak deformity is not instantly life threatening, it is serious enough to warrant veterinary attention to ensure that your bird is able to get the proper nutrition.

  • Beak is not symmetrical
  • Beak may be discolored
  • Misalignment of the beak
  • Lack of grooming
  • Loss of ability to eat in severe cases

Causes of Beak Deformities in Birds

There are several different factors that can cause beak deformities in birds. These factors can include nutritional deficiencies, environmental contaminants, bacterial or viral infections, fungal or parasitic infections. Trauma can also cause your bird’s beak to become deformed. 

Current research is focusing on the environmental factors surrounding areas where there are higher instances of beak deformities. Multiple research teams are focused on Alaska and the Pacific Northwest where there is a higher than usual instances of birds with beak deformities.

Diagnosis of Beak Deformities in Birds

Birds with beak deformities will be diagnosed based on visually seeing and feeling the beak. The severity of the deformity will vary between individual birds. Some birds will have a slight underbite or overbite appearance to their beak. Some birds can have the upper or lower portion of their beak be double its normal length. The abnormally long beak can curve to the side or even criss-cross.

A veterinarian may choose to run diagnostic tests relative to investigation of parasites, infection, or fungus. A discussion of possible trauma may be necessary.

Treatment of Beak Deformities in Birds

Domesticated birds with beak deformities will need to have a treatment plan set up for continual treatments to monitor the situation. If the deformity is severe enough that it is affecting your bird’s overall health or their ability to eat, your veterinarian may opt to trim the beak. This involves trimming your bird’s beak to the proper shape and removing any excessive flaking on the beak. The overgrown portion of the beak is similar to that of an overgrown fingernail; there is no sense of pain in that portion of the beak. 

Beak trimming can be done using simple tools such as fingernail clippers, side cutting wire cutters and nail files. Your veterinarian may opt to use a grinding stone such as a Dremel grinder. Your bird will most likely not be anesthetized during the beak trimming. When trimming the beak, your veterinarian will have to be careful not to over-trim as this can cause great discomfort for your bird. 

Young birds that are suffering from mild deformities may only need your veterinarian to show you how to apply finger pressure to the appropriate side of the beak several times a day to correct the deformity. Do not attempt to correct your bird’s beak deformity without first consulting your veterinarian.

Older birds with a more severe deformity may require surgery. This could entail having an acrylic prosthesis put on your bird’s beak to help correct the deformity. The acrylic prosthesis could be permanent or it could simply be used as a splint for short-term.

Recovery of Beak Deformities in Birds

Your bird’s overall health is dependent on a healthy, normally formed beak. You can ensure that your bird has a healthy beak by ensuring that they get the necessary nutrients and by detecting any deformities early.

You will need to do daily checks of your bird’s beak. You will need to note any cracks or discoloration of the beak or if there is any overgrowth that has started. Provide your bird with plenty of chewing toys to allow them to keep their beak trimmed naturally. Give your bird plenty of perches made with different textures such as cement perches that are made specifically for nail and beak health.