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To Beak, or Not to Beak.

“I want my bird’s beak trimmed because it hurts when it bites me!” “It’s so long and curved; I want it really short”….I have heard it all! If you’ve questioned your bird’s beak length when in for a grooming appointment and we’ve told you it was unnecessary—here’s some more explanation! It’s not about selling a service. If your bird doesn’t NEED a beak trim, I won’t do it, and I’m happy to explain why not.

What is the purpose of the beak? A longer top beak length with a very pointed end is completely normal. Of course eating is the number one purpose for that sharp point! Your bird was meant to open harder items such as seeds and nuts, but how do they look in the wild? In our prepared seed mixes we buy, many times seeds and nuts are already out of shells, husks, or pods and ready to eat. There are often many protective layers to seeds and nuts that our birds would need to peel away to get their food. The natural point of their beak helps in this process. The length of the beak also protects nerve endings and beak papillae. If we trim it down when not needed, these nerve endings are more exposed which would cause obvious discomfort and lighter eating habits because of the pain.

Every species has a different shape meant for doing different things. A Hyacinth Macaw’s curved, long bill is very different from the short bill of an Umbrella Cockatoo. Yet, a Black Palm Cockatoo’s beak is vastly different from an Umbrella Cockatoo and they’re related! I can’t tell you how many times people see our Slender Billed Cockatoo and try to shame us for her beak length—it’s normal! It’s tough to know what the natural shape of each species should look like to the average bird owner, so we understand why you might ask for your bird to get a beak trim. This is why we do not suggest trimming your own bird’s beak at home.

It took me many years of grooming nails before I began grooming beaks and there are still some that come in and stump me due to deformities or injuries. It is not worth the risk of injury when doing it yourself at home.

When we have birds with beak deformities, overgrown beaks due to diet or health issues, or injured beaks, the way we groom and how often we groom will vary from bird to bird. I have some birds with severe injuries that come every month. The average bird with good diet, plenty of hard woods to shred, and in good health will never need a beak trim. Most of the time when we trim an average bird's beak we are filing it down just slightly with most of the build up around the beak (the edging) being cleaned up. We are always happy to give a consultation thru text or email as to whether your bird’s beak needs trimmed or not, too.

If you are looking to book an appointment for any kind of grooming check out our website here:

There is a great article from Dr. Scott Echols about the findings of nerve endings and beak papillae using 2D and 3D imaging found here:

P.S. Regarding the first line in this post (which I hear a lot): A trimmed beak does not mean your bird won’t bite or it won’t hurt as much. If it doesn’t bite much afterwards, it’s probably because it hurts and that is the LAST reason to ask for a beak trim! Your bird’s welfare comes first.

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