Home » Scissor Beak in Parrots: Causes, Treatment + Prevention
why do parrots get scissor beak?

Scissor Beak in Parrots: Causes, Treatment + Prevention

(Last Updated On: September 22, 2023)

Scissor beak in parrots (also called ‘crooked beak’ or ‘crossed beak’) happens when the upper and lower beak grow sideways but in opposite directions, forming a scissor-like cross when it’s closed.

Parrot hatchlings can have scissor beak, suggesting that it’s caused by genetics or incubation conditions.

However, parrots can also develop scissor beak in adulthood. A poor diet, lack of enrichment, infectious diseases, injury, or neoplasia (tumors) can cause scissor beak.

In truth, few conditions are caused purely by genetics or the environment. So, scissor beak is likely caused by an interaction between genetics and the environment.

Why Do Parrots Get Scissor Beak?

Scissor beak is often discussed in conjunction with other beak conditions like elongation of the beak (overgrown beak) or ‘mandibular prognathism’ (underbite).

Scissor break – or lateral beak deviation – has several risk factors, including:


Is scissor beak genetic? Since many cases of scissor beak occur in baby parrots, genetics likely play a role. Also, since certain parrot species (e.g., macaws) are more vulnerable to scissor beak than others, this supports the notion that genetics is a significant factor.

According to Science Direct, many beak deformities are at least partly congenital (inherited). Other proven congenital diseases in parrots include familial cataracts and being born with tiny eyes.

Stressful Breeding Conditions

Stressful breeding conditions might cause scissor beak in parrots.

In a breeding experiment from 2007, conducted by Al Wibra Wildlife Preservation, the male Hyacinth Macaw used for breeding had a history of picking his feathers due to stress.

Two of his offspring were born deformed (one with scissor beak and the other with a foot deformity).

This doesn’t prove that a stressed parrot is likelier to parent chicks with birth defects. However, it seems possible that stress could aggravate any pre-existing genetic diseases.

This is an example of how genes and the environment interact, resulting in scissor beak.

Incubation Problems 

According to the MSD Manual, incubation faults can also lead to scissor beak.

It’s okay to artificially incubate parrots’ eggs, but breeders must have the right equipment to do so, and they must also maintain the optimal temperature.

Faulty equipment could interfere with the chick’s development and prevent it from growing a healthy rostrum (beak).

Hand-Feeding Method

When a parrot is very young, its beak is soft and malleable. According to Vet Exotic, scissor beak can often be corrected by gently pressing the beak back into alignment a few times per day.

Similarly, if a baby parrot’s beak is wiped too hard or knocked when feeding, this could lead to scissor beak in a healthy parrot.


According to Entomology Journal, ‘beak overgrowth’ is frequently caused by vitamin A deficiency (hypovitaminosis A).

Scissor beak isn’t quite the same as beak overgrowth, but it’s similar, and a parrot could suffer from overgrowth and lateral (scissor) growth.

Vitamin A deficiencies are common in parrots fed a seed-only diet with little fresh fruit and vegetables.

A lack of Vitamin D3 (which can be synthesized from sun exposure) and a calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia) are also associated with beak overgrowth and, possibly, scissor beak.

Infectious Diseases

Some infectious diseases cause beak deformities, including parasitic and mycobacterial infections.

A study by NIH covered the case of a parrot from Portugal whose beak became very deformed following a bacterial infection. This wasn’t a case of scissor beak, though.

There are few case studies of bacterial infections causing scissor beak specifically. However, most veterinary guides mention infectious diseases as a possible cause.

is scissor beak genetic?


Trauma to the beak is more common in the wild than in domestic settings. Nevertheless, a pet parrot can injure its beak by flying into a hard surface like a window or ceiling fan.

Blunt trauma can damage the top or bottom of the beak, causing a scissor-like deformity. According to Wiley Online, beak fractures are serious because the injured bird might be unable to eat and drink.


Neoplasia means tissue overgrowth, which could be cancerous or benign. If a tumor grows near the beak, this could cause it to become deformed and take on a scissor shape.

Lack of Enrichment

Parrots sharpen their beaks on wood and other surfaces in the wild, keeping them healthy.

If you don’t provide the parrot with rough and abrasive surfaces to chew on, this can lead to an overgrown beak or even a scissor beak.

A paper by Alvefas argues that increasing a parrot’s enrichment (i.e., by providing different types of wood to chew on) can significantly improve beak health and reduce overgrowth.

Parrot Species Most Likely to Get Scissor Beak

Parrots and chickens are most vulnerable to this beak deformity.

Within the parrot family (psittacines), the most vulnerable are Macaws (Ara). Budgerigars sometimes also get scissor beak, although beak overgrowth is more common than scissor beak in budgies.

Cockatoos (Cacatuidae) are also vulnerable to a similar beak deformity called mandibular prognathism. Whereas scissor beak forces the upper and lower beak sideways, mandibular prognathism is more like an underbite. Macaws can get mandibular prognathism, but it’s rare.

Can a Parrot Live with Scissor Beak?

A parrot’s beak is crucial for functionality and well-being. A healthy parrot uses its beak to:

  • Preen.
  • Climb.
  • Hold onto perches.
  • Regulate body temperature.
  • Eat and drink.
  • Line nests.
  • Protect itself.

Although pet parrots’ day-to-day needs are met, they still need a healthy beak to perform essential daily tasks. At its worst, a scissor beak can stop a parrot from consuming nutritious foods and hydrating.

Minor cases of scissor beak can be tolerated for a while, but the deformity will worsen if left untreated. Scissor beak could cause parrots to become withdrawn and apathetic.

How Is Scissor Beak Treated?

Scissor beak treatment varies based on the parrot’s age and the severity of the deformity.

In hatchlings and juveniles, it’s sometimes possible to ‘mold’ the beak by realigning it after each meal. This must be done within 7 weeks as the beak’s keratin will harden.

A more invasive treatment is called transsinus pinning. Here, the upper and lower beak are pinned in place. An orthodontic rubber band provides tension, helping keep the beak in place as it grows.

This treatment is suitable for chicks under 16 weeks old and lasts about 3 weeks. A trial by BioOne found that almost all of the 16 chicks tested were cured of scissor beak.

In adult parrots with advanced scissor beak symptoms, it’s possible to use a dental composite to align the beak. The treatment isn’t too invasive, so an anesthetic isn’t required.

Research Gate stated results from using a dental composite could take 3-6 months. You would also need to hand-feed the parrot during this period.  

If the beak isn’t very crooked, you may be able to control the progression with regular beak trims.

How To Trim A Scissor Beak

If the parrot’s scissor beak isn’t too severe, it can be managed with regular trims. Depending on the parrot’s diet and lifestyle, these trims could be every 3-12 months.

It’s better to ask an avian vet to trim the parrot’s beak, especially the first time. Many vets will show you how to do it so you can repeat the trims at home.

A vet may trim the parrot’s beak using scissors, clippers, or a debeaking machine.

Trim the ends (not further up the beak) because this could damage the blood vessels and cause bleeding.

Preventing Scissor Beak in Parrots

Scissor beak is an unhealthy and potentially painful condition, so it should be prevented whenever possible. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • If you go to a breeder to buy a juvenile parrot, wait until it’s 8 weeks old. That way, its beak will have hardened, and you’ll be able to see if it’s aligned.  
  • Give the parrot some natural wood to chew on, like bamboo wood, elmwood, or apple tree wood.
  • Feed the parrot a healthy diet. Include foods rich in beta-carotene, like carrots and orange-fleshed melon, to avoid a vitamin A deficiency.

A vet can usually keep scissor beak under control by identifying it early with regular trims. However, if you allow it to worsen, the parrot’s health and well-being will be compromised.