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Pull the trimmer away from your bird’s beak and back away from the bird Mam

Pull the trimmer away from your bird’s beak and back away from the bird Mam

 Our economical bird nail trimmer has become very popular now that caged bird keepers realize how easy it is to trim their own birds nails while saving money at the same time. Make sure you know how to towel your bird to make nail trimming much easier.

Although we recommend using our electric nail trimmers to keep your birds nails trimmed, we do not recommend that you attempt to trim your bird’s beak.

It’s a sensitive organ and has a lot of sensory receptors and which could potentially be very painful to your bird if handled in the wrong way, which got me to thinking about today’s topic. Think – just slipping an 1/8 inch on the bird’s beak in the wrong direction can damage sensory cells (Herbst corpuscles).

Note – A little semantic housekeeping here in these modern times of ornithology the term beak & bill can be used interchangeably.

Your bird’s beak is the most important part of his or her anatomy. They use it for any number of things from grooming, to eating to moving objects around. Fighting, probing for food, courtship, feeding youngsters and for some species even killing prey in the wild..

You can see from the illustrations below beaks vary widely based upon the species need, but at the end of the day all beaks are very similar. They all have an upper and lower mandible which are both covered with a thin layer of keratinized epidermis known as the rhamphotheca.

macaw skull anatomy

Thin, slender, pointed beaks are found mainly in insect eaters. They are used to pick insects off leaves, twigs, and bark. This warbler is a good example.

Beak conditioners found here

Beaks which are flat and wide at the base are found on birds which catch insects in flight, such as flycatchers. These birds also often have “whiskers,” which are actually modified feathers, at the corners of the mouth, which effectively widens the mouth opening, allowing more effective capture of prey.

Feathered Factoid –  beaks are an evolutionary concession to weight saving over the much heavier jaws & teeth arrangement mammals use to tear apart food.

The upper mandible gets support from a three-pronged bone called an intermaxillary. This design where the upper prong of the bone is embedded into the forehead while the lower prongs attached to the sides of the skull make for a very efficient operation. At the base of the upper part of the beak you’ll find a thin sheet of nasal bones that are attached to the skull and is something called the nasofrontal hinge which provides mobility.

pencil drawing skeleton of parrot skull of cockatoo

The lower mandible is supported by a single bone called the inferior maxillary bone which is a compound bone made of two pieces which attach on either side of the head to the quadrate bone. Muscles which enable the bird to close its beak attach to both sides the head.

What you see on the outside of the beak is this thin horny sheath of keratin covering all the rhamphothea which comes in two flavors depending upon whether it’s on the top of the bottom part of the beak. There’s also a vascular layer within the beak which means blood running through it and it grows continuously in most species.

If you’ve ever had a finger chomped on by a large parrot the (up to 4) laser like incisions on your now bloody finger were made with the edges of the top and the bottom of the beak and these are called Tomias.

The Ridgeline of the upper part of the beak is called the Culmen – one area used to measure pending birds in the wild.

A problem with hand fed young birds or chicks is when human hands are too strong and or not holding the beak correctly, the beak can grow incorrectly as the chick matures which results in a deformity. In Macaw chicks the use of too much force can cause the beak top part of the beak to grow off to one side. The result is call a “scissored” beak.

With young cockatoos, cockatoo moms pull on the upper beak of the young birds. They use their beak to feed with a “pumping action”. By not utilizing that “pulling of the beak” pumping action while hand feeding by humans. the feeding process can result in the upper beak being too short in relation to the lower one. And you thought setting your alarm clock to wake you every 2 hours for a hand feeding for 6 or more weeks was all you had to think about:-)

Feathered Factoid –  Finches use their beaks like tweezers to extract seeds.

It is said that something called the “bill tip organ” is far more well-developed among birds that live in wet habitats including parrots. This bill tip ending has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst.

There you’ll find very tiny pits in the bill surface which are occupied by cells that sense pressure changes. It is thought that this allows birds to have a remote touch which means it can detect movement without direct touch.

Some Toucans use their beaks (the walls of which are hollow) to rid themselves of excess heat.

Much like feathers birds have various colored beaks resulting from concentrations of pigments. We know that birds can see light in the ultraviolet spectrum which may radiate from some of their beaks once again signaling to other birds and about their quality

Let’s not forget the egg tooth which is not really a tooth but a calcareous prominence at the tip of the beak of an embryonic bird at hatching which they use to chip their way out of the egg.

beak1

A cone shaped bill is found in many birds such as finches and grosbeaks. It is a strong beak used for cracking seeds.

beak2

Thin, slender, pointed beaks are found mainly in insect eaters. They are used to pick insects off leaves, twigs, and bark. This warbler is a good example.

beak3

Woodpeckers have strong beaks which taper to the tip, forming a chisel for pecking holes in trees for food or nests. Most feed on insects which live under the bark.

The Woodpecker's Special Equipment Beak, Feet, Tail, Skull

beak4

Hummingbirds have long, tubular bills that resemble straws, which they use to sip nectar from flowers.

beak5

Mergansers, specialized for eating fish, have sharp tooth-like structures on the edge of the bill to hold fish tightly.

beak6

Hawks, owls, and other birds of prey which catch and kill live prey have sharp, “hooked” beaks. These are used to bite the skull or neck and also to tear the body into pieces small enough to swallow.

Visit our awesome health category

beak7The edges of a Mallard’s bill are fringed to strain plants, seeds, and small animals from mud and water.

beak8

Beaks which are flat and wide at the base are found in birds which catch insects in flight, such as flycatchers. These birds also often have “whiskers,” which are actually modified feathers, at the corners of the mouth, which effectively widens the mouth opening, allowing more effective capture of prey.

When your birds are eating they will be active and enjoy wiping their beaks on a solid surface to get rid of the excess food particulate that inevitably sticks to it. Beak conditioners enable your bird to keep its beak in tip top shape much like a chef uses a butchers steel to keep a razor-sharp edge on his knives.What’s the best way to let nature take its course by birds beak? Get a beak conditioner for your bird cage and put it somewhere where your bird will use it like near the feeder dishes.

Much of this blog post was collected from others  – if it’s yours, please let us know so we can give you credit for your fine work.

written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing

your zygodactyl footnote
drawing of birds beaks an their specific attributes by L. Shyamal

 

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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