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What is Broken Beak?

A “beak scuffle” generally occurs when an enclosure is overcrowded, when birds of different sizes are enclosed together, if birds haven’t been introduced properly, but are made enclosure-mates, if one bird assumes a bully position among a group, or just because two birds - who are typically buddies – have a spontaneous fight. These scenarios, and many others, may lead to altercations that happen in a fraction of a second. While some of these scenarios can be avoided (such as careless caging), some cannot.

Like humans and any other species, birds fight. Before you know it, you are looking at one or two broken beaks, an injury which is just as dangerous, and as painful, as it sounds. While many birds wind up with some type of beak injury in their lifetime, management of the injury must be executed with the greatest care. The purpose of a bird’s beak is multi-fold; its primary job, of course, is to capture, secure and eat food. It makes probing for, and eating, insects easy. It cracks seeds. It’s used for drinking. The beak functions like human hands. It enables a bird to gather materials to build a nest, to feed its young, and to preen. And yes, a beak is sometimes used as a weapon; its hard surface can serve as an effective protectant. Given these reasons, we must assist with its repair, if possible. Most of us would want to help, but where to begin? Is a beak even repairable?

The beak consists of two parts: the upper and the lower mandible. The upper mandible differs from the lower mandible because it grows firmly out of the bird’s skull. The lower mandible can move independently, and operates as if on a hinge. Its hard surface is composed of skin, which is overlaid with a substance called keratin. Keratin is the same material that makes up human fingernails. The bird produces the keratin, which then dries to create the solid, durable beak. The keratin constantly regenerates to keep the beak intact and strong. Clearly, the loss of a beak is devastating, but it’s also very painful because the beak is connected to bone and nerve endings. It also has its own blood supply, so any type of crack, break or injury will cause substantial bleeding.

Many birds will experience a beak injury in their lifetime; while it’s a serious injury, there are options for recovery.

Symptoms of Broken Beak in Birds

The appearance of a bird with a broken beak will be most evident. Not only will your bird look uncomfortable, he could be experiencing pain.

  • Injury to the beak 
  • Bleeding
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Causes of Broken Beak in Birds

The primary cause of an injured or broken beak is fighting between birds. Another cause may be a collision between the bird and a building, a car, a tree, or other objects and structures. Breakage of the beak will cause extensive bleeding and damage to the keratin.

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Diagnosis of Broken Beak in Birds

The first action to take if your bird suffers a beak injury is to apply pressure to the bleeding. Contacting the veterinarian (an avian veterinarian, if possible) or animal clinic should be your next step. If you are not able to make an immediate trip to your veterinarian (though you must see a vet within 24 hours), many veterinarians or technicians will offer you guidance by telephone until your appointment.

In the meantime, do not remove any part of the damaged beak. This may increase the bleeding, and a beak injury can cause a bird to bleed to death. Some bird owners consider using Super Glue to try and fix a crack, but this is also not recommended. Glue, due to fumes and other chemicals, could burn not only the wound, but also the bird’s eyes and skin.

To slow bleeding until you can make it to the vet, you could try to "cork" the area using a mass of softened soap from the underside of a typical bar of bathroom soap. However, this is an option only to be used in emergency, and hopefully just while on route to the vet.

The primary means of diagnosing a beak injury is a physical exam conducted by a (preferably avian) veterinarian; sedation may be needed if the bird is under extreme stress.

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Treatment of Broken Beak in Birds

It’s important to keep the wound sterile, particularly because tissues may be exposed and could be susceptible to infection. Also, the tissues tend to dry out, which will cause the bird irritation and discomfort. The vet will likely recommend that you rinse the wound with sterile saline solution (contact lens solution is fine, but make sure it’s preservative free) to maintain moisture as well as a clean wound site.

Once at the appointment, the vet will examine the injury and recommend the best course of treatment. Options include wiring the beak, or covering it with a type of protective “cast” or acrylic coating, such as what dentists use to repair human teeth.

If the blood loss has been severe and if the injury impedes eating or drinking, the bird might be hospitalized overnight for fluids, antibiotics, antifungals and pain care. 

Your best source of information about how to proceed with nutrition is your veterinarian. The bird might be on a soft food diet for a while, for a lifetime, or not at all. Some alternatives include mashed sweet potatoes, bananas, and even (human) baby food.

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Recovery of Broken Beak in Birds

The primary components of recovery from a beak injury include watching the wires or cast for any changes, following the veterinarian’s eating plan, administering medication, allowing for healing time, and isolating the bird from other birds and animals. Most cracks or small injuries will simply grow out like a break in a fingernail. A beak doesn’t repair itself, or grow back together, but it usually will grow out. In some cases, the bird will never retain its former appearance, and could suffer disfigurement. Other birds may be on a soft food diet for the duration of its life, but otherwise will return to normal functioning.

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Broken Beak Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Budgie bird

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One Month

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Ripped Beak

Hey so my mom budgie did something evil. Her baby finally came out of the nests and she goes close to him and rips off his beak and now the baby is missing the top beak. Can you explain to me what I can do? And why would the mom do that

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. A baby bird won't be able to eat or drink without the top part of its beak, and that baby needs to see a veterinarian. Nature is cruel sometimes, and perhaps there was a problem with that baby that the mom knew. I hope that the baby is okay.

Oct. 5, 2020

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Pigeon

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Three Months

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Half Beak Broken Due To Pox

Half Beak broken due to pox

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. I hope that your pet is okay. If they are still having any problems, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 20, 2020

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Paco

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Parolet

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

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No

My parolet Paco’s upper beak appears separated a bit from the top of his head. You can see some fleshy tissue between the top of his upper beak where it connects to the top of his head. Almost like it’s been pulled away from the top of his head a little. It’s not bleeding and he appears to use it ok. Is this something I need to worry about?

Sept. 20, 2018

Paco's Owner

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Katey

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Yellow Nape Amazon

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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She’S Not Showing Symptoms

Hi! My Katy’s upper beak cracked towards the tip of her beak horizontally past the lower part of her bottom beak. It did have a little blood but it’s not bleeding any more. When I turn her to get a side view or profile view of her beak I can clearly see a small whole through it. Should I be worried or should I leave her alone and let it heal it’s self!

July 24, 2018

Katey's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Beaks don't typically heal, and Katey may need medical help to repair the beak if it interferes with her eating or drinking, or seems painful. Without seeing her I can't say for sure if she needs to be seen, but with a traumatic injury like that, it is usually a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian to have it looked at.

July 25, 2018

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Sammy

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cockatiel

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20 Years

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Serious severity

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Broken Beak
Beak Loss

My mother’s bird has been experiencing beak loss for awhile. He has been in a cage most of his life and in the last few years has basically refused to leave the cage. It appeared as though he was starting to loose his bottom beak for about the last 8-12 months. His top beak seems fine but now it seems as though his bottom beak is very reduced and is split it two and seems very loose and weak - he is now having trouble eating and a couple of times seemed to be struggling at the bottom of his cage. As he is an older bird I’m scared of agitating him too much. Do you have any recommendations? Should I try to transport him to the vet? Is there anything they could do? And if so, do you have any tips or something to give him that might calm him down enough that I could transport him there? Or do you think it would be best to just try to feed him soft formula?

May 19, 2018

Sammy's Owner

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Without seeing Sammy’s beak, I cannot say whether or not there is anything which may be done, your Veterinarian may be able to model or surgically glue the bottom beak together to make eating and drinking easier. Ideally you should visit an experienced Avian Veterinarian (see directory in link below) to get the best result for Sammy. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.aav.org/search/custom.asp?id=1803

May 19, 2018

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Fellow

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Australian budgie

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1 Year

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Serious severity

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Bleeding Nose And Broken Mandi

My female budgie had small cracks on her nose. I thought it was crusting. Today I saw her she had no nose and her upper beak is gone. She is interacting normally but I don't know how to feed her and do for the wound?

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