A bird’s beak serves more purpose that just about any other part of its outer anatomy. Aside from its obvious function during meals, it is used for climbing and it acts as a “hand” as it explores its world. It can snap a tree branch in half and then gently feed a chick in the nest. A bird would surely struggle without its beak.
Like our nails, a beak is made of keratin. And like our nails, beak tissue is continually growing. Normally, if a bird is on a good diet, a healthy beak will take care of itself. As it navigates its cage and chews on wooden toys, the beak is naturally groomed and any overgrowth is worn down.
There is always a fresh supply of new beak growth just under the existing beak, and it makes its way to the surface by sloughing off the old outer growth. This means that sometimes the visible part of the beak begins to peel away.
In fact, you will more often see a peeling appearance in your bird’s beak than not. Sometimes it looks extreme, but it is all part of the normal growth process. It is not unusual for a bird to try to hurry the process by rubbing its beak against hard surfaces. I try to gently discourage this behavior when I see it happen. I have seen birds wear grooves into their beaks from the cage bars when they become obsessive in this activity.
If there is ever any question that your bird’s beak appearance may be the result an injury or an illness, you should definitely have your vet take a look. Deep gouges, cracks and crevises should not be considered normal.
- Hyacinth macaw – NORMAL peeling
- Goffins cockatoo – NORMAL peeling
The photos below are ABNORMAL beaks due to disease, parasitical infestation or injury:
I should also mention that, in a cockatoo, a perfect, shiny beak is strong indicator of PBFD. The cockatoo beak should always be coated in a fine white powder.
Watch this video to learn how you can adjust your bird’s diet to prevent many beak ailments naturally: