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Sun Conure Beak Care — A Complete Guide for Beginners!

Last Updated on January 28, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Sun conures care for their beaks by chewing objects and rubbing them against rough surfaces to shape, polish, and sharpen them. Despite this, their beaks can get flaky, cracked, overgrown, or even break.

As parrots’ beaks comprise β-keratin (a structural, fibrous protein), they continuously grow throughout their lives. This means sun conures can repair minor cracks if the pieces remain intact.

Provide unshelled nuts, cuttlebones, toys, and wooden perches to keep a sun conure’s beak in good working order. These allow sun conures to wear down the excess without a beak trim.

Conure Beak Anatomy

A sun conure’s beak has the following parts:

Upper Mandible

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

This is supported by a three-pronged bone (the intermaxillary) embedded into the forehead. Two prongs on the lower part of the upper mandible are attached to the sides of the skull.

Sun conures can move their upper mandible independently of the lower one, allowing them to crack seeds and nuts. That’s thanks to the craniofacial hinge at the base of the upper mandible.

There’s also a palate and a sheet of nasal bones.

Lower Mandible

The maxillary bone supports the lower mandible, which comprises more than one piece. When combined, two ossified pieces make a U or V shape. These 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.
  • Swallow.
  • Bite.
  • Eat food.
  • Fully use their mouths without the rigid part of the beak jamming against the 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 in the middle of the pharynx, just behind the mouth. It’s among the most critical parts of the beak because it contains structures that allow it to function.

Alongside the oropharynx, the beak has many other vital structures. This includes the rhamphotheca (the beak’s outer surface comprising 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.

Tongue

Sun conure tongues contain bone, which allows them to collect food.

Once inside the beak, the parrot uses its tongue to move the food around to the correct position, ready to swallow. The interramal space creates room. Without it, parrots would find it hard 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.

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.

What A Healthy Conure Beak Looks 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 conditions.

A healthy sun conure beak should have the following features:

  • A smooth, symmetrical appearance.
  • Free from unusual textures or peeling.
  • An even color without discoloration.
  • The upper and lower mandibles should be aligned.
  • No overgrowth or overly sharp points.

Parrots’ beaks vary in color, size, shape, and texture depending on their species.

Common Conure Beak Problems

While their beaks look strong, they can be susceptible to the following problems:

Injuries And Trauma

Injuries are usually due to a bite wound from another parrot, especially during the breeding season. Parrots also fight due to jealousy, tiredness, resources, and territoriality.

According to the MSD Veterinary Manual, bleeding is common with beak injuries. Owners must determine where the blood originated because it signifies a beak injury.

Other causes of conure beak injuries include:

  • Broken cage bars or toys.
  • Falling off perches.
  • Other pets.
  • Collisions with windows, doors, or ceiling fans.

Beaks have nerve endings, so sustaining an injury is very painful. 

Abnormal Beak Growth And Development

Genetic deformities and incubation abnormalities can affect the shape of the beak.

Hand-fed and baby parrots (chicks) 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 human 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, which is 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 flakier beaks than other species.

A parrot will remove these layers by rubbing its beaks against abrasive objects.

Metabolic Diseases

Fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) causes the beak to grow faster than it should. It also becomes misshapen and soft, making it near-impossible to eat and drink.

Beak Disease

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 Infection

Fungal infections can affect a sun conure’s beak, making it appear discolored. Candida is found 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. Common causes of fungal infections include:

  • Malnutrition.
  • Unsanitary cage conditions.
  • Poor ventilation.
  • Overcrowding.

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.

Peeling beak syndrome mainly occurs when sun conures don’t get enough calcium and protein.

Lack of Maintenance

Conures care for their beaks by rubbing and grinding them against perches, cage bars, and toys. If they stop doing so, their beaks become misshapen, too long, and sharp. 

Age can be an issue because older parrots struggle to care for themselves later in life.

How To Keep A Sun Conure’s Beak Healthy

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:

Better Diet

As malnutrition is a leading cause of sun conure beak problems, improving their diet is essential.

The diet for a sun conure should comprise the following:

  • 55-70% pellets.
  • 20-30% fruit and vegetables.
  • 5-10% seeds and nuts.

Improving a sun conure’s diet prevents beak problems, like peeling, cracking, and injuries.

conure beak health

Right Accessories

While parrots are experts at keeping their beaks worn down, they need the right objects.

Ensure it has access to wooden 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 things to wear away layers of dead beta-keratin.

Safe Cage

Some sun conures use their cages to rub away dead keratin if they lack blunt, textured objects. Unfortunately, old cages with broken bars and sharp edges may damage a sun conure’s beak.

Cracked Beak Healing Itself

Parrots’ beaks can become cracked and chipped. Minor injuries, trauma, diet, and age can also cause a sun conure’s beak to become slightly damaged.

Parrots can regrow their beaks if they remain in one piece. As the beak’s made of bone and keratin, it heals. The cracked parts must be in contact and stay 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 may struggle to heal their beaks because their bodies can’t produce the protective coating that protects the beak, rendering them more vulnerable.

Other factors that prevent a cracked beak from healing 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 requires surgery and rehabilitation.

Find out more in this complete guide to sun conure care.