Last Updated on: 1st July 2023, 11:51 am
A parrot’s beak color is species-specific. Due to genetics, each species has pigments responsible for the beak’s color, just as they have different feather colors.
We assume that parrots’ beaks should be black, but beaks can be pink, red, orange, or grey. However, you may feel concerned if a parrot’s beak changes colors suddenly.
It’s normal for the color of a parrot’s beak to start as one color and change to its permanent shade with age. The beak can change color due to diet, malnutrition, fungus, injury, and bruising.
Beaks turn white because dead keratin flakes off (sloughing), exposing the color underneath. However, it’s normal for the texture of a cockatoo’s beak to be powdery.
What Color Are Parrots’ Beaks?
The American Association for the Advancement of Science stated that beak color is due to carotenoids, specifically red and yellow pigments. Different parrot species have the following beak colors:
|Black beak:||Some macaws, including the hyacinth, red-shouldered, and blue-and-gold macaws.|
|Pink beak:||Eclectus parrots.|
|Ivory beak:||Green-winged and Catalina macaws.|
|Red-purple beak:||Indian ringneck parrots.|
|Orange beak:||Great-billed parrots.|
Why Is My Parrot’s Beak Changing Color?
Parrot owners often worry that a sudden beak color change means something amiss. Fortunately, that’s not always the case. The most likely reasons for a color alteration are as follows:
Many beaks turn a different color while parrots are growing and developing.
Some chicks are born with a jet-black beak that turns a dull grey as they age. Others have beaks that are lightly colored that gradually darken.
Baby budgies’ ceres change color as they age. A female’s cere changes to white, brown, tan, or pale blue, while males mostly develop a vivid blue band.
While this can cause concern, it usually means a parrot is developing its permanent beak color.
Malnutrition (undernutrition or the wrong nutrients) is a leading cause of health problems in pet parrots.
According to Niles Animal Hospital, all parrots’ diets should be rich in vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin fundamental to growing and repairing body tissue, including the beak.
Parrots fed an all-seed diet are most prone to vitamin A deficiencies. To introduce more vitamin A to a parrot’s diet and prevent beak discoloration, add the following foods:
A beta-carotene supplement is beneficial if a parrot has a vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A). Parrots’ bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol).
Just as a vitamin A shortfall harms the avian body, excessive vitamin A is toxic, leading to bone abnormalities and overall physical weakness.
If a parrot’s beak turns black or purple, it’s likely due to injury, like a bite from another bird or trauma from a hard object. As beaks are made from beta-keratin (mostly protein), the damage shows beneath.
Blood vessels run throughout the beak. If the beak is injured, the blood vessels may burst and release bleed, appearing blue, grey, brown, or purple.
Parrots with lightly-colored beaks will show bruising more clearly than parrots with dark-colored beaks.
Bruising isn’t a concern unless the parrot is in pain or struggles to eat and perform vital functions. The damage will heal underneath the keratin, similar to a bruised fingernail.
If you notice the parrot’s beak turning white, it’s likely due to sloughing. This is a natural process where the beak’s old, dead layers of keratin are shed, exposing the healthy layers beneath.
All birds experience a sloughing process throughout their lives. Shedding the different layers of keratin is normal, allowing new and healthy keratin layers to emerge.
Excessive dryness suggests a parrot may have vitamin A deficiency or nutritional imbalance.
If you have more than one parrot in a cage and regularly observe discoloration (bruising) on the beak, the two birds may not get along. The dominant parrot may be bullying or attacking the submissive parrot.
Several factors can cause parrots to fight, including the following:
- Poor cage conditions.
- A noisy environment.
- Food guarding.
- Insufficient space.
They’ll use their beaks, pecking and biting at each other, causing trauma. If parrots grow hostile toward one another, you must separate them into different cages until they can be safely reintroduced.
Fungal infections can be seen through the beak’s keratin as discoloration. A white crust may develop around the infected area where the yeast has grown.
The most common causes of fungal infections of the beak include:
- A weakened immune system.
- Dirty cage.
- Poor ventilation.
- Excessive humidity.
As well as a change to the beak’s color, you may observe the following symptoms:
- Tiredness and lethargy.
- Unhappy vocalizations.
- Sinus problems, like watery eyes.
- Difficulty breathing.
Fungal infections can be treated with vet-prescribed itraconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine, and amphotericin B. Keep the cage clean and sanitized, and use a humidifier to reduce humidity.
Scaly Leg And Face Mites
Scaly face and leg mites (Knemidokoptes pilae) can be found on parrots’ beaks, especially budgerigars. They burrow into the keratin, causing scaly and crusty lesions.
This leads to a bright white appearance that thickens as time progresses. The crusting occurs because mites dig tunnels (paths), creating a coral-like appearance.
Treatment for scaly face and leg mites involves vet-prescribed topical medications. For example, Avimec (which contains Ivermectin) is directly applied to the affected area for about 3 weeks.
Psittacine Beak And Feather Disease (Circovirus)
Beak and feather disease can lead to lesions on the beak, claws, and feathers, making the beak brittle and necrotic, eventually becoming malformed.
The clinical signs of infection rarely manifest for months, but it’s most common in parrots under 3. If you’re concerned that a parrot is infected, this can be determined with a blood test and biopsy.
Unfortunately, Circovirus doesn’t have a cure. Quarantine the infected birds to minimize exposure to viral particles and focus on providing supportive care for the sick bird.
Avipoxvirus (Avian Pox)
Avian pox, also called parrot pox, is caused by the poxvirus, resulting in crusted areas on non-feathered areas of the skin, including the beak.
However, the plaques and skin lesions from parrot pox can appear similar to bacterial and fungal infections, abscesses, and tumors.
Parrots kept outdoors are most susceptible to avian pox because mosquitoes, mites, and fly bites commonly transmit it. Then, the virus can enter the body through a cut or open sore.
Antibacterial therapy (antibiotics), assistance with eating, and supplements can promote recovery.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
If you find a discolored mass, the parrot could have malignant melanoma (tumor) on its beak.
Exposure to excessive sunlight (ultraviolet rays) is among the most common causes of neoplasms. This is a life-threatening condition, so early identification and removal is essential.
How To Maintain A Healthy Beak
The beak is among parrots’ most valuable appendages because they’re used for eating, preening, drinking, climbing, and defense. A sudden color change could signify a health problem.
The following factors can assist with beak health and maintenance:
Parrots’ beaks comprise bone and a thin layer of keratin for protection.
Keratin is a form of protein. To develop healthy layers of keratin, parrots need protein. Adding cooked eggs, lean meat, and legumes to a bird’s diet can improve the beak’s integrity.
Change Damaged Items
Parrots rub their beaks against their perches, so changing them minimizes the risk of cuts and scrapes. Also, broken and damaged toys can chip and break the beak, causing the beak to change color.
Because parrots’ beaks continuously grow and go through a sloughing process, changing their color, they must keep them filed down. With the right items, they can do this themselves.
Mineral and wooden blocks, ropes, beads, and coconut pieces are recommended for beak health because they have enough texture to exfoliate the flaking keratin.
Don’t constantly leave pedi (abrasive) perches in the cage because they wear away the skin on the feet, risking conditions like bumblefoot. Adding abrasive perches for 2-3 days a week will suffice.
Regular Vet Visits
While a vet can trim a parrot’s beak, sudden overgrowth and an abnormal shape could mean a pet bird has fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis). This is caused by a build-up of fat around the liver.
Parrots’ beaks can change color naturally with age. Also, ensure you provide a nutritious diet, a clean cage, items to maintain the beak, and companion birds aren’t fighting each other.
If not, a vet must rule out health conditions (fungal infections, mites, Circovirus, avian pox, etc.)