Does a Long Beak Prevent a Cockatiel From Eating?

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Birds use their beaks to shell seeds.
Birds use their beaks to shell seeds. (Image: Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Your cockatiel's beak acts as hands, feet and toolkit; it's an important asset. The cockatiel eats a variety of foods and uses the beak to shell seeds, shred foods and deliver them to the mouth. A beak that is too long can interfere with all of these functions. Keep an eye on your bird's beak to ensure it can perform its many jobs.

Beak Basics

"Your cockatiel's beak is the only and most important tool for a tiel's survival," Cockatiel.com asserts. "Think of it as the bird's version of an Army Swiss Knife." The cockatiel uses it for feeding, preening, climbing and defense. Keep an eye on it. Most bird beaks will keep in condition through normal activities, but some pet birds may need a little help.

Home Exams

Accidents, illnesses, nutritional deficiencies, parasites are common causes of beak problems. Perform a weekly at-home exam of your bird's beak. Look for cracks, discoloration or unusual growth. You may be able to prevent beak problems with attention to items in your house. Birds are drawn to windows and mirrors, so if you let your cockatiel out of his cage, be sure to cover mirrors and windows to prevent an accident -- the beak will be the first thing to hit the hard surfaces. Signs of injury, disease or infection indicate a need for a veterinary examination. Overgrown beaks or misaligned beaks also need a vet's care.

Keeping Fit

A captive cockatiel needs a cuttlebone to assist in keeping the cockatiel’s beak at the proper size and shape. A lava stone or a mineral block is an alternative. Toys and other bird-safe objects to chew on help keep the beak healthy, and the activity helps prevents boredom. Do not try to trim a beak at home unless you have been trained. Your avian veterinarian can show you how to perform basic care at home, but let him trim the beak until you are confident you can perform the task without harming the bird.

Happy, Healthy Birds

Never ignore a beak problem or delay in getting treatment. A beak abnormality can prevent the bird from eating enough to support its activity, and an avian veterinarian can evaluate the bird's beak and his overall health as well. The National Cockatiel Society website cautions, "A bird’s beak contains a blood supply as well as a sensory organ at the tip. This tells the bird whether what he has in his beak is hot or cold, and basically whether it is food or not. To damage this sensory organ would mean that the beak will not regrow normally and could pose a threat to the bird’s ability to eat normally." Remember that your avian veterinarian is your partner in keeping your pet healthy and happy.

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