A parrot’s beak is one of its most defining features. Most people believe that parrots’ beaks are black, but they can be a range of colors, including pink, red, orange, and grey. Sometimes, you’ll even notice a parrot beak color change.
A parrot’s beak may start out as one color but change to its permanent shade as the bird gets older. Other factors that affect beak color include diet, malnutrition, fungal infections, and injury or trauma (bruising). Also, beaks turn white because dead keratin flakes off (sloughing), exposing the color underneath.
While it’s easy to assume that your parrot’s beak is changing color because of a health issue, that’s not always the case. That being said, it’s useful to know why the beak suddenly changes shade.
What Color Are Parrots’ Beaks?
Beak color is species-dependent. Due to genetics, each species has pigments responsible for the beak’s coloration, much like how they have different colored feathers. The following parrots have different colored beaks:
- Black: Some macaw species, including the hyacinth, red-shouldered, and blue-and-gold macaws
- Pink: Eclectus parrots
- Ivory: Green-winged and Catalina macaws
- Red-purple: Indian ringneck parrots
- Orange: Great-billed parrots
According to the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, a parrot’s beak is coated with a thin keratinized layer of the epidermis, called the rhamphotheca. Keratin consists almost entirely of proteins.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science explains how the beak’s coloration is due to carotenoids, specifically red and yellow pigments. The coloration depends on how many carotenoids are present in the beak.
Why Is My Parrot’s Beak Changing Color?
It’s normal for owners to be concerned that their parrot’s beak color change is a sign that something’s wrong. However, that’s not always the case. The most likely reasons for a color change are:
Many parrots’ beaks change color while they’re growing and developing. Some chicks are born with a jet black beak that becomes a duller grey as they age. Others have beaks that start out lightly colored but gradually get darker.
For example, baby parakeets have a pink nostril band above their beak, which changes color as they get older. A female’s changes to white, brown, tan, or pale blue, while males mostly develop a vivid blue band. They also sometimes turn bright purple, while some will stay pink.
While this sometimes seems like a cause for concern, it’s completely natural and normal. It’s just a sign that the parrot is growing into its permanent beak color.
When parrots are fed a diet that consists of pellets, fruits, veggies, seeds, and nuts, their beaks should retain their natural coloration without flaking or splitting, which can affect the color.
Dull, lifeless beaks are a sign that something’s lacking in your parrot’s diet. For example, the beak may turn black if the parrot’s on a seed-only diet.
If your parrot’s beak is turning black or purple, it’s likely due to an injury, such as a bite from another parrot or a knock from a window or hard object. Because beaks are made from keratin, they bruise easily.
Similarly, several blood vessels run throughout the beak. If the beak gets injured, the blood vessel may bleed, appearing as an alarming red or purple discoloration. Parrots with lightly colored beaks will show the bruising more noticeably than parrots with black, red, or purple beaks.
Bruising is nothing to worry about unless your parrot is in pain or struggles to eat and pick up food. As the keratin continuously grows, the wound will heal and the discoloration will grow out.
If you notice your parrot’s beak turning white, it’s likely because of sloughing. This is a natural process where the beak’s old, dead layers are shed, exposing a healthy layer of white beak underneath.
Cockatoos and conures are more prone to flaky beaks than other parrot species, but all go through the sloughing process at various stages of their life.
While it’s an entirely normal reason for beak discoloration, too much dryness indicates a vitamin A deficiency or nutritional problem.
Are Beak Color Changes A Sign of A Health Problem?
A healthy beak should be smooth and uniform in color and texture. If it’s not, something within your parrot’s diet. If the color changes, it could be the sign of:
Malnutrition And Vitamin Deficiencies
As mentioned, malnutrition is the leading cause of most health problems. Also, most parrots are deficient in vitamin A. A parrot’s diet should consist of:
Avoid feeding your parrot the following foods, as they’re toxic and/or can cause deficiencies:
As described by Niles Animal Hospital, all parrots’ diets should feature an abundance of vitamin A. Parrots fed an all-seed diet are most prone to this deficiency. To introduce more vitamin A into your parrot’s diet and avoid beak discoloration, incorporate the following foods:
Also, a beta-carotene supplement is beneficial.
Fungal infections can be seen through the beak’s keratin, causing discoloration. A white crust may develop around the infected area where the yeast has overgrown. The most common causes include:
- A weakened immune system
- Dirt cage
- Poor ventilation
- Humid environments
As well as a change to the beak’s coloration, you’ll notice:
A course of antibiotics can clear up the infection. However, you must rectify the cause so that a fungal infection doesn’t reoccur. Keep the cage clean and sanitized, and ensure you feed your parrot a nutritious diet. Where the environment is too humid, use a humidifier to improve the air conditions.
If you have more than one parrot in a cage and you regularly notice signs of discoloration (bruising) on their beaks, your pair of parrots are likely fighting. The dominant parrot may be bullying the submissive parrot. Several reasons cause parrots in the same cage to fight, including:
- Poor cage conditions
- A noisy environment
- Lack of food
- Insufficient space
They will use their beaks as a weapon, pecking and biting at the other, causing trauma. If your parrots start fighting regularly, you’ll need to separate them into their own cages, at least until they are ready to be reintroduced.
How To Maintain A Healthy Beak
A beak is a parrot’s most useful tool, as it’s used for eating, preening, drinking, climbing, and more. When the beak changes color, it could be a sign that a health condition is taking hold. Consider the following factors to ensure your parrot’s beak stays healthy:
Improving your parrot’s diet is the best way to ensure keratin is strong and doesn’t flake away. This is one of the leading causes of beak discoloration and is one of the most neglected aspects of parrot ownership.
Because parrots’ beaks are continuously growing and go through the sloughing process, which changes the color, parrots must keep them filed down. With the right tools, they can do this themselves without the need for a vet.
Mineral and wooden blocks, ropes, beads, and coconut pieces are the best things for your parrot’s beak because they have enough texture to exfoliate the flaking keratin away.
Keep The Cage Risk-Free
Parrots rub their beaks against their perches, so keeping them in good condition will minimize the risk of cuts and scrapes. Also, broken bars and sharp edges can chip and break your parrot’s beak, causing the beak to change color.
The beak may feel sore for a few days, but the injury should clear up on its own. However, all wounds are at risk of bacterial infections, which will require antibiotics to clear up.
An avian vet is best placed to see the early signs of beak discoloration. Look out for other signs of sickness, as this indicates that the beak color change is associated with a health issue that needs veterinary treatment.