Male cockatiels get darker beaks


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In budgerigars and all other birds, the visible part of the beak consists of a horn-like substance, the beaked horn. In healthy birds, the beak horn grows continuously throughout their life in order to counteract natural wear and tear. The growth is different depending on the bird species, which is due to the fact that the animals use their beak in different ways: woodpeckers hammer, parrot birds gnaw and waders poke their beak in the silt to find food. Each of these uses leads to a different degree of wear and tear.

Before discussing possible changes in the beak in detail in this chapter, you should familiarize yourself with some important terms. What do we actually mean when we speak of the beak? "That thing in the bird's face that is used to ingest food" - that is usually the answer to the question, but in order to be able to discuss the occurrence of diseases with a veterinarian, one should be a little more precise: The Upper beak (1) is the larger of the two halves of the bill in budgerigars and its front (upper) side can be seen when closed. In addition, the upper beak usually obscures the much smaller one when at rest Lower beak (2). More information about the two halves of the beak can be found here.

The growth zone of the respective halves of the beak is inside. It is a bony core, i.e. the birds' upper and lower jawbones. In the upper beak, the bone is located directly below the wax skin, i.e. under the nose, and it extends a few millimeters into the interior of the upper beak to about the middle. In the illustration opposite, the area where the base of the jawbone is hidden under the beak horn is marked in red. The bony area is covered with a tissue with a strong blood supply, which is produced by the beak horn. The beak horn is produced layer by layer from the inside out: the inner layers push the outer layers in front of them. This is comparable to our hair and fingernails. They are produced at their base and then push themselves outwards.

To make it clear that the beak horn is a renewable tissue, the series of images below these lines serves. A beak injury can be seen to "migrate" downward over time as the upper beak grows.

Because there are very active cells in the growth area of ​​the beak that incessantly produce beak horn, tissue changes can occur there, which are reflected in beak growth disorders. In addition, several other factors can affect beak growth and accidents can result in injuries to parts of the body, which are very important for birds. This chapter presents typical changes that are relatively common in budgerigars. You should definitely consult a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of birds for an exact diagnosis and to determine a suitable therapy.

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Changes in the color of the beak
The beak of the budgie is colored differently depending on the bird. In the graphic below these lines you can see some different beak colors as an example. The individual basic color of the beak of a healthy budgie is related to the so-called dark factor - this is a term from the color description and genetics of budgerigars. So there is no need to worry if a healthy budgie has a different beak color than a conspecific.

From light to dark - every budgie has one
individual, innate beak color

The important thing is: the beak color of an individual should normally always be the same. So make a good note of what the color of your birds' beak usually looks like, because only when you know this can you notice changes in color.

Tip: Take a photo under ideal lighting conditions that you can use as a "reference image". If you have the impression that the color of your bird's beak has changed, take another picture of the animal in the best possible light and compare the two pictures with each other. In this way you can usually recognize any changes relatively easily.

But when does discoloration occur and why? Suffer a bird Circulatory disorders, there are problems with oxygen uptake or is due to him Heart defect before, the beak usually darkens considerably because it is less well supplied with blood or because the oxygen saturation of the blood drops. This darkening or blue discoloration can sometimes only occur temporarily, for example after great exertion. If such a change in color is observed, a qualified veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible to be on the safe side.

Both photos show the same budgie, left with no heart problem and right with a heart problem. A color change can clearly be seen in the red marked area.

Color changes that can be seen in a punctiform area in the middle of the upper beak and that appear very suddenly are in most cases small bruises, so "blue spots", see photo on the right. The name is a bit misleading, because mostly the spots are not blue, but rather red. Such hematomas are the result of a Bumped beak and usually rather harmless. Most often they occur after the bird hits an obstacle. To be on the safe side, if you discover a bruise on your bird's beak that covers more than a third of the surface of its beak, see a vet. The photo in this paragraph shows a small bruise below the nose. In the photos below these lines, a much more severe beak bruise with large bleeding can be seen, which is located in the lower half of the upper beak.

This budgie has suffered a severe beak beak and has
now a large bruise in the lower part of his upper beak.

In rare cases it can lead to a bacterial infection or to one Fungal attack the beak horn come. Here, too, there are dark, gray to black colored spots on the beak, which often become larger quickly. If you observe such color changes, you should consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Changes in the surface structure
Usually, a healthy budgie has a smooth and shiny beak. However, due to brawls with other birds or minor accidents, the top layer of the beak may chip a little. In the picture on the right you can see a splintered beak, the lady bird had previously messed with a conspecific and involved her in a beak fight. If a beak is superficially splintered in a small area in this way, there is usually no need to worry. Only if the flaking piece is significantly larger than the one in the photo or if blood oozes from the splinter should you contact a veterinarian as a precaution.

If the beak splinters over a large area and again and again without the bird having quarreled with a conspecific, or if the beak edges are brittle and frayed, a virus infection could be present. Budgies and some other species of birds have a viral disease called PBFDwhich can lead to brittle beak horn. However, in this disease, plumage disorders usually occur first before the beak is damaged by the virus. If you observe a plumage disorder and a structural change in the beak in your bird, you should therefore absolutely have the animal examined for this disease. The illustration in this paragraph shows a very advanced stage of the severe, incurable disease. The budgie's beak is not smooth but has flaked off in places and is a little brittle at the edges, which has resulted in steps where there should normally be a bulge without edges.

Danger: Other causes can also lead to such a splintering of the beak, it is not always necessarily a PBFD infection behind it, which is why it is all the more important to have an exact diagnosis made by a specialist veterinarian.

Dull, flaky, or grooved beak horns can also appear when birds are suffering from nutritional deficiencies. In addition, the plumage is usually dull and shaggy, and the animals have difficulty moulting. The skin on the feet also looks dry and very rough. If all these symptoms are observed, the nutrient supply of the birds must be checked urgently and a qualified veterinarian should be consulted.

If, on the other hand, the beak horn appears porous and at the same time matt, parasites could be behind the changed surface structure. Grave mites, which are alternatively referred to as mange mites, drive tiny tunnels into the beaked horn, which can usually only be seen with the naked eye at very close range; a magnifying glass does a good job here. At first the beak horn looks dull, then you can see the small holes (drill holes) and later a light crust forms on the beak. Often, its growth also changes. For example, the beak can grow enormously or completely crookedly in a short period of time. Birds suffering from grave mite infestation should be presented to a veterinarian immediately.

Vertical grooves in the beak
If vertical grooves are formed in the upper beak, i.e. from top to bottom, the cause may be a severe inflammation of the nose, among other things. Because a strong infection of the respiratory system can also affect the jawbone or swelling of the nose may put pressure on the growth zone of the beak, these characteristic grooves often arise. Sometimes they are only very small, but in particularly serious cases they can be several millimeters wide. The photo on the right shows a Lineolated Parakeet that has suffered from severe chronic nasal infections for a long time. The bacteria not only partially destroyed his wax skin and thereby enormously enlarged his left nostril. In addition, the growth zone of the beak has been damaged, so that a deep vertical notch has formed and the beak is brittle overall.

In more extreme cases, inflammation, often from the nose, can penetrate deep into the jawbone. As a result of such an inflammation, very deep longitudinal grooves may develop, which are not merely superficial indentations in the beak. The beak can even split, which is not only extremely painful for the affected bird, but also often causes feeding problems. Unfortunately, even if the infection can be combated, there is no guarantee that the beak will grow back normally later. If the bone in the growth zone of the beak is too badly damaged, the beak remains split. It is essential to check whether the affected bird can still eat on its own. Regular trimming or straightening of the beak, which usually grows crooked, is another necessity. However, this should not be done by a layperson, but rather by a qualified veterinarian, because a split beak can break easily.

Severe beak splitting in a budgie after a bacterial infection

Abnormal growth of the beak
If a beak that has obviously not been attacked by mites grows crooked or deformed or if it becomes very long within a very short time, there is usually cause for concern. Often a malfunction or underfunction of an internal organ is the reason for the increased or crooked beak growth. Many budgies, whose beak becomes enormously long within a relatively short period of time - usually the upper beak in particular - suffer from one Liver disorder. In connection with liver disorders, there are also often dark discolorations at the tip of the beak. These are hemorrhages that are usually much darker than the beak bruises mentioned above.

Danger: It is not enough to hang a pecking stone or limestone in the bird's cage and hope that the animal will sharpen its beak more. Firstly, birds usually do not intentionally wear their beak and, secondly, this would only fix one symptom anyway, but not the actual cause of the increased beak growth, namely the organic disease. A bird whose beak is growing too quickly must therefore be examined by a qualified veterinarian and, ideally, therapy is started as soon as possible to try to remedy the actual health problem.

Growths on the beak
Growths can occur on and on the beak, which are more or less dangerous for the affected bird, depending on the cause. It is with such growths in some cases Beak tumors. These are mostly inoperable and therefore regrettably usually not curable. However, not all beak tumors cause pain, which is why the affected animals can still lead a comfortable life for a while. A knowledgeable avian vet should regularly examine the feathered patient and review his or her condition. If it turns out that a bird is beginning to suffer from constant pain or should it no longer be able to eat on its own due to the overgrowth, it usually makes sense to take the difficult step of euthanizing and to spare the animal further agony.

Huge beak tumor that has resulted in an enormous thickening

Laterally lying beak tumor in a male budgie

Also Cysts can form on the beak. The three photos below these lines show such a cyst on the lower beak of a female budgie. The cyst can be seen as a dark spot. Many cysts bleed profusely when injured by mechanical irritation. Therefore, one should not try to treat them on one's own, but always consult an experienced veterinarian.

Slate growth, one or both sides
Small injuries to the beak are usually responsible for the fact that it grows crookedly after it has healed. This can occur on one or both sides and affect either the upper or lower beak. Sometimes both halves of the beak are affected. But not only beak injuries can lead to this problem. In some animals, nutritional deficiencies or liver problems cause excessive growth at first, which later turns into crooked growth. Together with a bird specialist, bird keepers whose birds have such beak growth disorders should investigate the cause in each individual case and of course bring the crooked beak into shape. Below these lines is a case study of a lovebird in whom the lower jaw has grown excessively strong and a little crooked on one side.



Broken beak
Due to serious accidents, a bird's beak can break off. Usually this is a direct result of a collision with an obstacle such as a window pane or a mirror, but biting with other members of the same species can also break the beak. Depending on where the break line runs, the affected bird has a more or less high chance of survival. However, the beak does not necessarily grow back, because if the inner area, i.e. the bone, has been injured, there is no longer a growth zone.Beak fractures are a complex topic and are therefore presented in detail in a separate chapter.

The article "The Parrot's Beak" by Dr. Hildegard Niemann. It was published in the 04/2008 issue of WP magazine .