Special on World Parrot Day...Beak Deformities In Birds
It is my hobby to go early in the morning fully loaded with my camera kit to shoot birds, butterflies, insects or anything photogenic related to environment. As usual I was wandering near forested area close to my house and clicked few shots of Rose-ringed Parakeet. It was a matter of surprise for me when I up-loaded the pictures and saw amazing picture of Rose-ringed Parakeet having extended beak. I had heard about it but witnessed for the first time. Actually, this is a disease and scientifically called avian keratin disorder (AKD). It can develop to birds with other species other than Parakeet also and occurs by debilitating beak overgrowth and other abnormalities of keratinized tissues. Mostly it occurs with the upper beak though lower beak can also be affected. Basically upper and lower beak should be properly aligned with proper length. In most of the cases deformities are found in wild birds but it has been reported in domesticated/ pet birds also.
Dr.Matinder Sekhon, President, Chandigarh Bird Club is of the view that “birds beaks are made-up of bone covered by a thin layer of skin and an outer layer of hard protein called Keratin. Hair, nails, claws, horns and hooves are also made of Keratin. Beak deformity occurs because of (i) Genetic mutation which is normal. (ii) Metabolic disorder called hepatic lipidosis mostly in pet parrots but sometimes occurs in wild birds too. (iii) Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) is a viral disease affecting all Old World and New World parrots. Parrots, also known as psittacines found in most tropical and subtropical beak and feather disease (PBFD) caused by fatty liver disease (FLD), also known as hepatic steatosis is a condition where excess fat builds up in the liver but is generally accompanied by loss of head and neck feathers”.
I contacted my friend and a prominent birdwatcher Prof.(Dr.) Gurpartap Singh with whom we have saved many injured wild birds. He said “Beak is not symmetrical, it may be discoloured, misalignment of the beak, lack of grooming and loss of ability to eat in severe cases, are some of the symptoms. It is quite obvious in many severe cases when a bird’s beak is deformed. Simple observation of the beak and comparing it to birds of the same species will determine if a bird’s beak is deformed. If it is suspected that a bird is suffering from a beak deformity, a veterinarian can be contacted. While a beak deformity is not instantly life threatening but can reduce life-span for not taking proper food, it is serious enough to warrant veterinary attention to ensure that the bird is able to get the proper nutrition and breathe without difficulty”.
Dr.Ashish prominent veterinarian posted at Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park at village Chhat, Zirakpur Punjab said “Overdeveloped upper beak is called epignathism and cause of this condition is hereditary deficiencies such as vitamin A, vitamin D and calcium, traumatic due to sticky food impacted over inner surface of beak and hard plate.
There can be many factors for occurrence of beak deformities in the birds like nutritional deficiencies, environmental contaminants, liver disorder, bacterial or viral infections, and fungal or parasitic infections and improper cleanliness of beak. Trauma or injury can also cause a bird’s beak to become deformed. I have noticed parakeets eating some salts (contains sulphates, magnesium, sodium and calcium carbonate) temporary whitish deposit on the surface of walls which is also called Kallar or Shora (local names) from the concrete walls of the buildings to meet the requirement of minerals and by doing so I presume that rubbing their beak against it may keep it well shaped and stop overgrowth. Birds beak and its formation is plays a vital role in the overall health. Healthy beak provides necessary nutrients. For pets it is easy to check the beak which can help early detecting of any deformities, cracking or discoloration and overgrowth. But in case of wild birds it cannot be checked and if checked as in the case of Rose-ringed Parakeet but failed bitterly to help it out. I tried my best to catch it and get it operated from the veterinary doctor. It is difficult to help in case of wild bird but domesticated birds can easily be examined, treated and can be offered few chewing toys which helps to keep the beak trimmed naturally. Give a domesticated bird plenty of perches made with different textures like cement perches which are specially designed for the birds to keep the nail and beak healthy. Always offer easy-to-eat-foods, soft small bits of vegetable, fruit, cocked egg instead of hard-to-eat-food to birds if you detect cracking/discoloration or overgrowth to return them to natural environment after recovery gradually.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) is spread from infected birds to healthy birds by direct contact, usually from the dust of feathers, dander or faeces; the disease is sometimes transmitted from contact with an infected nest box. Infected birds can also pass on the virus to their young. The occurrence of beak deformities in birds is not limited to just a few geographical areas. These deformities are becoming prevalent across the world and have raised significant concern regarding environmental factors. Birds with deformed beaks have a decreased ability to feed and clean them. It can be caused by improper diet, or the result of an infection, injury, or liver disease. Usually it occurs due to a lack of proper use in the bird's current environment.
Beak trimming can be done using simple tools such as fingernail clippers, side cutting wire cutters and nail files. The veterinarian may also opt to use a small electric grinder. The bird will most likely not be anaesthetized during the beak trimming. When trimming the beak, the veterinarian will have to be careful not to over-trim as this can cause great discomfort for the bird. Young birds that are suffering from mild deformities may only need a veterinarian to show you how to apply finger pressure to the appropriate side of the beak several times a day to correct the deformity. Do not attempt to correct a bird’s beak deformity without first consulting a veterinarian. Older birds with a more severe deformity may require surgery. This could entail having an acrylic prosthesis put on the bird’s beak to help correct the deformity. The acrylic prosthesis could be permanent or it could simply be used as a splint for short-term.
Chandigarh too has City Bird Sanctuary or Parrot Bird Sanctuary in sector-21, Chandigarh (old village name Rurki Padau) situated on Old Ropar Road(still have traces) a primarily habitat of parrots spread over 2.9 hectares comes under Forest and Wildlife department Chandigarh and 1.80 hectares area is open to the citizens for walk under Chapter IV of the Wildlife Act (1972) and rest of 1.10 hectares area is restricted as per Act. An adequate green cover adjoining to residential area hare attracted a large number of birds especially parrots and it became a natural habitat for them for living and breeding. Keeping in view the presence of a large number of birds, primarily parrots, this area was notified as bird sanctuary in 1998. I am in Chandigarh since 1959 and still remember that thousands of parrots used to fly early in the morning and return to this habitat in the evening but with the passage to time their population has decreased drastically.
Nature Correspondent Babushahi.com