conure beak maintenance

A Complete Guide To Sun Conure Beak Care

The sun conure (sun parakeet) is a medium-sized, vibrantly colored parrot. While they’re a healthy species, they sometimes get flaky, cracked, and broken beaks. That’s why you need to ensure that their beaks are properly cared for.

Sun conures take care of their beaks by rubbing and tapping them against rough objects to keep them filed down. However, beak trauma is common, especially if several sun conures are sharing a cage. To keep your sun conure’s beak in good condition, provide a balanced diet, cuttlebones, and pedi perches.

Because a parrot’s beak is made of keratin, it continuously grows throughout its entire life. This means that sun conures can repair minor cracks as long as the pieces are still intact.

Conure Beak Anatomy

A sun conure’s beak has the following features:

Upper Mandible

The upper mandible is the section of the beak that moves up and down.

A three-pronged bone called the intermaxillary that’s embedded into the forehead supports it. There are two prongs on the lower part of the upper mandible and 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 located at the base of the upper mandible. It also has a palate and a sheet of nasal bones.

Lower Mandible

The lower mandible is supported by the maxillary bone, which is a bone made up of more than one piece. Two ossified pieces of the bone make a U or V shape when they’re joined together and are the foundations for the maxillary bone.

The bones of the lower mandible are joined at the front and not the back. This causes the interramal space to form, which holds the tongue and its supporting structures in place. Similarly, the lower mandible’s U or V structure creates the hole that all parrots have.

These holes enable them to:

  • Open and close their mouths
  • Swallow
  • Bite
  • 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.

conure beak problems

Oropharynx

The oropharynx is a hollow tube located in the middle of the pharynx, just behind the mouth. It’s among the most important parts of the beak as it contains valuable structures that allow it to function correctly.

Alongside the oropharynx, the beak has many other vital structures. This includes the rhamphotheca, which is the beak’s outer surface consisting of a thin horny sheath of keratin. It’s ever-growing, meaning sun conures must keep their beaks filed down to prevent them from growing too long.

The tomia are the cutting edges on both the mandibles.

Tongue

Surprisingly, sun conure tongues consist of bone, which allows them to collect food.

Once the food’s inside the beak, the parrot uses its tongue to manipulate the food around the mouth into the correct position, ready to swallow. The interramal space creates the 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 at the roof of the mouth. They join together whenever the parrot closes its beak, giving it a closed 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. That’s because 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?

Whenever sun conures have beak problems, they’re at risk of not being able to eat, groom, or play. This can affect their quality of life and cause 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 parrot beaks are the same. Depending on the breed, they vary in color, size, shape, and texture.

Common Conure Beak Problems

While parrot beaks look strong and healthy, they can be susceptible to several problems:

Injuries And Trauma

Injuries and trauma are common and are usually the result of a bite wound from another parrot in the same cage, particularly during the breeding season. Parrots also fight due to jealousy, tiredness, and a lack of space.

As described by MSD Veterinary Manual, bleeding is common with beak injuries, but owners must determine where the blood has come from first. Blood is a key indication that your 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

Because beaks have nerve endings, trauma and injuries will be painful. 

Abnormal Beak Growth and Development

Genetic deformities and incubation abnormalities can affect the shape of the beak, causing it to become misshapen.

Hand-fed parrots are most at risk, as are baby parrots kept in poor conditions. Scissors beak is one of the most widely seen beak deformities, causing the upper and lower mandibles to become misaligned.

The sun conure is likely to experience beak problems throughout its life, so it’ll need to learn to use the beak it has left. In many cases, the parrot will need assistance to eat and drink properly. Surgery is sometimes an option.

Color Changes And Discoloration

It’s not unusual for your sun conure’s beak to change color, but it could indicate that something’s wrong.

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 your sun conure’s beak turning white. Sloughing is one of the most common reasons for beak color changes and happens when the 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 your sun conure frequently. Your parrot will remove these layers with any abrasive objects available to it.

Metabolic Diseases

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 properly.

Beak Disease

One of the most common beak diseases affecting sun conures is psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), which is caused by a small virus called Circovirus.

According to the European College Avian Medicine and Surgery, the virus 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 Infection

Fungal infections can affect your sun conure’s beak, making it appear discolored and sore. Candida is normal in a parrot’s digestive system, but too much can cause beak issues.

If your sun conure gets a fungal infection, a white crust will appear around the beak where the yeast has overgrown.

The most common causes for it include:

  • Malnutrition
  • Unsanitary cage conditions
  • Poor ventilation
  • Overcrowding

As well as an itchy beak, a sun conure may develop sinus problems, lethargy, depression, and difficulty breathing.

Peeling Beak Syndrome

Peeling beak syndrome is common among all parrots, including sun conures. It’s completely normal, but because the beak starts flaking away, owners worry that it’s a sign of a health problem.

Peeling beak syndrome mainly occurs when sun conures don’t have enough calcium and protein in their diet. That’s because calcium makes up a large part of the beak. Protein makes the beak strong.

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 are at risk of becoming too long and sharp. 

Age can be a significant factor, as older parrots struggle to take care of themselves later on in life.

How To Keep Your Sun Conure’s Beak Healthy

As mentioned, a sun conure’s beak is one of its most valuable tools. Without a properly functioning beak, sun conures are at risk of starvation, dehydration, and predation.

You can keep your sun conure’s beak in good condition with the following steps:

Improved Diet

Because malnutrition is one of 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:

Improving a sun conure’s diet will prevent common beak problems, such as peeling, cracking, and injuries.

conure beak health

Right Accessories

While parrots are experts at keeping their beaks filed down, they need the right tools to do so.

To enable your parrot to file its beak down, ensure it has access to pedi perches, cuttlebones, and good-quality chew toys. Coconut shells, ropes, beads, and wooden blocks also have a rough texture that acts as an exfoliator.

Sun conures will rub and tap their beaks against these items to file off any layers of dead keratin.

Safe Cage

In the absence of blunt, textured objects to file their beaks against, some sun conures use their cages to rub away the dead keratin. However, old cages with broken bars and sharp edges are likely to damage your sun conure’s beak.

Will A Cracked Beak Heal Itself?

It’s common for parrot beaks to become cracked and chipped. Minor injuries, trauma, diet, and age are all factors that can contribute to a sun conure’s beak becoming slightly damaged.

However, parrots can regrow their beaks to some extent, as long as the beak’s still in one piece. Because the beak’s made of bones and keratin, it heals in the same way. To do so, the cracked parts must be in contact with each other and remain in one piece so that the beak can seal itself.

Baby sun conures are more likely to be able to regrow their cracked beaks than adult parrots. That’s because they’re usually more active and healthy.

Older parrots are more likely to struggle to heal their beaks because their bodies cannot 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
  • Beak shatters or falls apart
  • Nerve damage around the beak area

If the crack is too significant, the parrot’s body won’t be able to heal itself. Similarly, the nerves and blood vessels are likely to be 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, the vet will file it down using a special tool that removes the beak’s excess layers. This mimics the natural exfoliation process.

The vet will analyze why your parrot can’t file its beak down and recommend an appropriate course of action. Always monitor your parrot’s beak in case it gets too long or misshapen.

Here’s our complete guide to sun conure care.