Last Updated on: 29th May 2023, 08:27 am
Sun conures care for their beaks by rubbing them against abrasive surfaces to shape, polish, and sharpen them. However, sun conures sometimes get flaky, cracked, overgrown, and broken beaks.
As parrots’ beaks are made of keratin, they continuously grow throughout their lives. This means sun conures can repair minor cracks if the pieces remain intact.
To keep a sun conure’s beak in good condition, provide un-shelled nuts, cuttlebones, and pedi perches. These will wear down the beak naturally without needing a trim from a vet.
Conure Beak Anatomy
A sun conure’s beak has the following parts:
The upper mandible is the section of the beak that moves up and down.
A three-pronged bone called the intermaxillary embedded into the forehead supports it. There are two prongs on the lower part of the upper mandible attached to the sides of the skull.
Sun conures can move their upper mandible independently of the lower one, allowing them to crack nuts. That’s due to the craniofacial hinge at the base of the upper mandible.
There’s also a palate and a sheet of nasal bones.
The lower mandible is supported by the maxillary bone, which is a bone made up of more than one piece. When joined together, two ossified pieces of the bone make a U or V shape and are the foundations for the maxillary bone.
The bones of the lower mandible are joined at the front, not the back. This causes the interramal space to form, which holds the tongue and its supporting structures in place.
The lower mandible’s U or V structure creates the hole that all parrots have. These enable them to:
- Open and close their mouths.
- Eat food.
- Fully use their mouths without the rigid part of the beak jamming against their throat.
While the lower mandible isn’t as robust as the upper mandible, it’s just as important.
The oropharynx is a hollow tube in the middle of the pharynx, just behind the mouth. It’s among the most important parts of the beak because it contains structures that allow it to function properly.
Alongside the oropharynx, the beak has many other vital structures. This includes the rhamphotheca (the beak’s outer surface consisting of a thin horny keratin sheath).
The rhamphotheca is ever-growing, meaning sun conures must keep their beaks filed down to prevent them from growing too long and misshapen.
The tomia are the cutting edges on both mandibles.
Surprisingly, sun conure tongues contain bone, which allows them to collect food.
Once the food’s inside the beak, the parrot uses its tongue to move the food around the mouth into the right position, ready to swallow.
The interramal space creates room. Without it, parrots would struggle to eat.
Glottis and Choana
The glottis is a sun conure’s windpipe opening (trachea).
It works alongside the choana, which sits on the roof of the mouth. They join together whenever the parrot closes its beak, giving it a connection between the nostrils and windpipe.
Laryngeal Mound And Esophagus
The laryngeal mound (or papillae) sits at the base of a sun conure’s tongue, enabling it to guide its food toward the esophagus.
Due to the interramal space, the parrot has enough room to swallow its food properly.
Palate And Salivary Glands
The palate and salivary glands allow sun conures to eat and digest food. The palate holds the food before the laryngeal mound pushes it toward the esophagus.
Salivary glands are just as vital because they form salvia. This allows sun conures to break down their food, helping it travel down the esophagus more easily.
What Should A Healthy Conure Beak Look Like?
When sun conures have beak problems, they risk being unable to eat, preen, climb, and hold items. This affects their quality of life and causes secondary health conditions. A healthy sun conure beak should:
- Have a smooth, symmetrical appearance.
- Be free from unusual textures or peeling.
- Have an even color without discoloration.
- The upper and lower mandibles should be aligned.
- Have no overgrowth or overly sharp points.
Not all parrots’ beaks are the same. Depending on the species, they vary in color, size, shape, and texture.
Common Conure Beak Problems
While parrots’ beaks look strong, they can be susceptible to problems:
Injuries And Trauma
Injuries are usually due to a bite wound from another parrot in the same cage, especially during the breeding season. Parrots also fight due to jealousy, tiredness, resources, and territoriality.
According to MSD Veterinary Manual, bleeding is common with beak injuries, but owners must determine where the blood has come from first. Blood signifies a parrot has a beak injury.
Other common causes of conure beak injuries include:
- Broken cage bars or toys.
- Falling off the perch.
- Other pets.
- Collision with a window, door, or ceiling fan.
As beaks have nerve endings, meaning that injuries are painful.
Abnormal Beak Growth and Development
Genetic deformities and incubation abnormalities can sometimes affect the shape of the beak.
Hand-fed parrots and baby parrots kept in poor conditions are most at risk. Scissor beak is a deformity that causes the upper and lower mandibles to become misaligned.
The sun conure is likely to experience beak problems throughout its life, so it must learn to use the beak it has left. Sometimes, a parrot will need assistance to eat and drink.
Color Changes And Discoloration
It’s not unusual for a sun conure’s beak to change color, but it could indicate something’s amiss. Things that cause sun conures beaks to become discolored include:
- Malnourishment and a poorly balanced diet.
- Accidents and injuries.
- Dead keratin flaking off.
You may notice a sun conure’s beak turning white, called sloughing.
Sloughing is among the most common reasons for beak color changes, which happens when old, dead layers shed, exposing a layer of white beak underneath.
Conures have more flaky beaks than other species, so you’ll experience this with a sun conure frequently. A parrot will remove these layers by rubbing its beaks against abrasive objects.
Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) causes the beak to grow faster than it should. It also becomes misshapen and soft, making it almost impossible to eat and drink.
Sun conures are affected by psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), caused by Circovirus.
According to the European College of Avian Medicine and Surgery, PBFD is responsible for the abnormal growth and degeneration of the beak’s epidermis and stratum corneum.
As well as an overgrown beak, the affected sun conure will develop deformed feathers that easily break.
Fungal infections can affect a sun conure’s beak, making it appear discolored. Candida is normal in a parrot’s digestive system, but too much can cause beak issues.
If a sun conure develops a fungal infection, a white crust will appear around the beak where the yeast has overgrown. The most common causes of fungal infections include the following:
- Unsanitary cage conditions.
- Poor ventilation.
A sun conure may experience an itchy beak, sinus problems, lethargy, depression, and difficulty breathing.
Peeling Beak Syndrome
Peeling beak syndrome is common among sun conures. It’s normal, but because the beak starts flaking away, owners grow concerned that it signifies a health problem.
Lack of Maintenance
Conures care for their beaks by rubbing and grinding them against perches, cage bars, and beak maintenance items. If they stop doing so, their beaks become too long and sharp.
Age can be a significant factor because older parrots struggle to care for themselves later in life.
How To Keep Your Sun Conure’s Beak Healthy
A sun conure’s beak is among its most valuable tools. Without a well-functioning beak, sun conures risk starvation, dehydration, and predation.
You can keep a sun conure’s beak in good condition with these steps:
As malnutrition is among the leading causes of sun conure beak problems, improving their diet is one of the best ways to keep them healthy. The diet for a sun conure should consist of the following:
Improving a sun conure’s diet prevents beak problems, like peeling, cracking, and injuries.
While parrots are experts at keeping their beaks filed down, they need the right tools.
To enable a parrot to wear down its beak, ensure it has access to pedi perches, cuttlebones, and chew toys. Coconut shells, ropes, beads, and wooden blocks also have a rough texture that acts as an exfoliator.
Sun conures rub and tap their beaks against these items to wear away layers of dead keratin.
Some sun conures use their cages to rub away dead keratin if they lack blunt, textured objects. However, old cages with broken bars and sharp edges may damage a sun conure’s beak.
Will A Cracked Beak Heal Itself?
It’s common for parrots’ beaks to become cracked and chipped. Minor injuries, trauma, diet, and age contribute to a sun conure’s beak becoming slightly damaged.
However, parrots can regrow their beaks to some extent if the beak is still in one piece.
As the beak’s made of bone and keratin, it heals. To do so, the cracked parts must be in contact with each other and remain in one piece.
Baby sun conures are more likely to be able to regrow their cracked beaks than adults because they’re usually more active and healthy.
Older parrots can struggle to heal their beaks because their bodies can’t produce the protective coating that protects the beak, making it more vulnerable.
Other factors that prevent a cracked beak from healing itself include:
- Chips that are too deep.
- Fissures that are too wide.
- An infection that prevents healing.
- Large pieces of the beak break off.
- The beak shatters or falls apart.
- Nerve damage around the beak area.
If the crack is too significant, the body won’t be able to heal itself. Similarly, the nerves and blood vessels are likely too damaged for nature to take over. If so, the parrot will require surgery and rehabilitation.
Can You Trim A Conure’s Beak?
Instead of trimming the beak, a vet will file it down using a special tool that removes its excess layers. This process mimics the natural exfoliation process.
A vet will assess why the parrot can’t wear its beak down and recommend an action plan. Always monitor the parrot’s beak and take action if it gets too long, sharp, or misshapen.
Find out more in our complete guide to sun conure care.