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Do Birds Beaks Grow Back?

    Birds’ beaks continuously grow. The bones of the adult bird will cease to grow once the bird reaches maturity, but the keratin production will continue throughout the bird’s life. The age of the bird and the type of injury are critical factors in determining if intervention is necessary.

    Both wild and birds living in captivity (either pet birds or those in zoos or sanctuaries) may eventually experience a problem with their beak, be it a crack or break.

    Their beak is as helpful and utilized as much as our hands are. Whether a beak grows back depends on several factors, such as the bird’s age, the location of the injury, and the type of injury the beak has sustained.

    Regrowth for a wild bird is critical as their life literally depends upon it. With birds in captivity, there is a little more leeway and room to improvise. With the proper care, it is likely a bird with a beak injury will make a full recovery and be able to continue to use its beaks as usual.

    Factors Influencing the Regrowth of a Bird’s Beak

    Not all beak injuries are critical. Birds can have natural wear and tear on their beaks because of abundant use. A bird’s beak is its most vital tool, and it receives a lot of wear and sometimes injuries. Let’s look at some of the factors that are important to consider when discussing beak regrowth.

    Age

    The bird’s beak consists of just two bones: the upper beak (premaxillary bone) and the lower beak (mandibular bone).

    These two bones grow with birds from hatchling to maturity. If a bird were to sustain an injury to its beak while still young, there is a greater likelihood that the beak would mend and grow out from the injury.

    Once a bird reaches maturity, these bones cease to grow and begin to harden. This makes recovery from an injury a little more complicated.

    Fortunately for birds, their beak is covered in skin-like material that produces keratin. Keratin is the same substance that feathers and fingernails are made from. This layer of keratin hardens and protects the beak. Keratin is produced on the beak for the whole of the bird’s life and is a self-healing substance.

    Natural Wear and Tear

    All birds will experience wear and tear on their beaks. Beaks are used for climbing, grasping, eating, communicating, and defense. Because it’s their most often used tool, it is normal for the tips and sides to wear down over time.

    This is perfectly normal and only affects the keratin coating and not the bone of the beak. The natural wearing of the beak is also an essential function for the bird’s health.

    Because the beak continues to grow throughout the bird’s life, if not for everyday wear, the beak would overgrow. If left untreated, this would cause problems with feeding and daily life.

    Type and Location of Beak Injury

    But what happens if there is an actual injury? A break or a crack in the beak?

    Depending on where the damage has occurred, there is still a chance that the beak will regrow. In an older bird whose bones have stopped growing, any injury to the upper or lower beak bones could cause permanent disfigurement. Injuries closer to the base of the beak (nearest the bird’s face) especially so. Injuries to the bone closer to the tip of the beak have a greater chance of healing, though the bone is involved in the injury, the production of keratin may help fill that gap and mend the beak.

    Is Intervention For a Beak Injury Necessary?

    Fortunately, there are options performed by both veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitators for birds that have unrepairable beak injuries.

    Methods such as splinting have been used. In a young bird, it can help stabilize the repair as the bone mends. For older birds, it can allow keratin to regrow and heal the area.

    For cases that are a little more difficult, dental composite can be used to create a patch or cast that helps the area to heal.

    For beak injuries that are beyond repair, there has been increasing work done on the use of prosthetic beaks. This has been a game-changer for a bird that would otherwise face starvation and probable death.

    Pet Birds and Beak Trimming

    For most birds and their owners, the practice of beak trimming will never arise. Offering your pet bird cuttlebones, wooden toys, and hard foods (nuts and crunchy vegetables) will help facilitate your bird’s natural wearing process to keep his beak trim and healthy.

    However, there are reasons that a bird’s beak may overgrow, such as a nutrition deficiency (calcium or vitamin D specifically), infections, or disease.

    If your bird needs a trim, you must call your veterinarian or other trained professional. Due to the vast amount of blood supplied to the beak, it is not recommended for a novice to attempt a trim.

    Both wild and pet birds have pros and cons regarding beak health and care. Wild birds certainly have more advantages when it comes to the natural wearing down of their beaks, but they also face more challenges and are likely left untreated when injury strikes.

    Pet birds have the disadvantage of natural wear and tear and rely on their owners to provide them with the proper tools. Pet birds have the advantage when it comes to intervention, though, and are more likely to be treated for their injuries than their wild cousins.

    Birds’ beaks are vitally important to their health and quality of life. Thankfully, most injuries sustained are not life-threatening and can heal on their own. Keeping your pet bird’s beak in good condition by offering a variety of toys and hard foods will make life easier and more enjoyable for you both. But it is good to know that there are options you can seek out to help your bird friend in the face of a traumatic injury.

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