Question: Why Does My Bird Have a Flaky Beak?
My bird's beak seems to look "flaky". Is this normal, and if so, why?
Answer: While it's true that bird species such as Cockatoos and some Conures are prone to flaking on their beaks, flaking is not necessarily abnormal. A Cockatoo is a powder down species so one can normally expect this powdery substance on their beak.
A bird’s beak is a tool for the bird, much like your hand or foot.
The bird uses her beak in various ways, allowing the bird a way to grasp objects, to crack open seeds and nuts as well as tearing or shredding material used for nesting as well as enlarging a nest hole. Birds also use their beak for climbing.
For example, woodpeckers use their beaks to gouge holes in trees locating insects as a part of their diet. Their beak remains sharp and chiseled for this use by the very action of using their beak on the wood of trees. So you can see how important a healthy beak is to a bird. It is not only a part of their body, it is an important part of their daily life. Various species of birds have adapted within their environment and beaks of various sizes and shapes have occurred naturally in the world depending on the various uses they have for the beak. So in the wild, you will see beaks of all types depending on what they are used for in their part of the world in order to survive.
And one of the main adaptations is that the shape of the beak is determined by what the bird eats.
The beak is made up of keratin, the same substance as a fingernail. And just like a fingernail, a bird’s beak will continue to grow throughout her life.
In the wild, a bird’s daily, normal activities will keep her beak worn down to normal dimensions so this growth that occurs along with the delay wear keeps her beak to a size where normal use is manageable.
It doesn’t get too long or overgrown and the continued growth keeps the beak useful for all of the activities that occur.
Companion birds normally will wear down their beaks by chewing on all sort of toys of various textures.
This keratin sometimes becomes flaky which is a normal part of this molting of the outer layers of keratin. This molting allows new keratin to develop as the old keratin is worn off.
So occasionally you will see this flaking and scaling of the beak as this renewal process continues. Normally their activities in the wild usually take care of this condition but companion birds need other ways to wear down and condition their beak.
A cuttle bone works well for this condition if your bird accepts it. Also, playing with toys and climbing also helps condition her beak as the process of moving about the cage and using her beak to assist with this moving about.
One cause of flaky beaks is a vitamin A deficiency, an issue that can easily be remedied by making sure your pet is offered a variety of fresh foods and high quality supplemental pellets. A healthy diet is a good way to ensure that your bird's beak remains healthy and normal. Chop, sprouts and other fresh vegetables can help.
At times, however, a beak can get a flaky looking patches on it as well as "growth" lines. Much like the human fingernail, a bird's beak grows continuously throughout its life, and the new growth can cause the beak to appear streaky or striped.
If you think your bird's beak is growing abnormally, if there are abnormal grooves or if pieces of the beak actually flake off, the best thing to do is contact an avian vet immediately. They will be able to diagnose the problem and help your bird get back on the road to exceptional health.
To help keep your pet from developing a beak problem, offer your bird plenty of chew toys or cuttlebones to exercise and grind his beak on. This should go a long way in keeping your bird's beak healthy, which will in turn keep your bird happy and feeling great!
Edited by: Patricia Sund