That Hookbill In Your Home – How Much Do You Know About Bird Beaks?

That Hookbill In Your Home – How Much Do You Know About Bird Beaks?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

Rotary trimmers are becoming very popular when people realize how easy it is to trim their own bird’s nails while saving money at the same time.

Although we recommend using an electric nail trimmer to keep your bird’s nails trimmed neatly we do not recommend that you attempt to trim your bird’s beak.

It’s a sensitive organ and has a lot of sensory receptors and which could potentially be very painful to your bird if handled in the wrong way, which got me to thinking about today’s topic.

Your bird’s beak is the most important part of his or her anatomy. They use it for any number of things from grooming to eating to moving objects around. Fighting, probing for food, courtship, feeding youngsters, and for some species even killing prey in the wild.


You can see from the illustration below beaks vary widely based upon the specific species need, but at the end of the day, all beaks are very similar.


They all have an upper and lower mandible which are both covered with a thin layer of character keratinized epidermis known as the rhamphotheca.


Bird beak adaptations. User:Shyamal


Last but not least you’ll usually find two holes known as nares which serve as the bird’s nose or entry to the respiratory system.


A little semantic housekeeping here in these modern times of ornithology the term Beak & Bill can be used interchangeably.


The upper mandible gets support from a three-pronged bone called the intermaxillary.


This design where the upper prong of the bone is embedded into the forehead where the lower prongs attached to the sides of the skull make for a very efficient operation.


At the base of the upper part of the beak, you’ll find a thin sheet of nasal bones that are attached to the skull is something called the nasofrontal hinge which provides mobility.



A problem with hand-fed young birds or chicks is when human hands are too strong and or not holding the beak correctly when hand-feeding the beak can grow incorrectly as the chick matures which results in a deformity.


In Macaw chicks the use of too much force can cause the beak to go off inside.


With young cockatoos, cockatoo moms pull on the upper beak of the young birds as she lifts her beak and feeds with a pumping action.


By not making that pulling of the beginning the feeding process can result in the upper beak being too short in relation to the lower one.


The lower mandible is supported by a single bone called the inferior maxillary bone which is a compound bone made of two pieces that attach on either side of the head to the quadrate bone.


Muscles that enable the bird to close its beak attach to both sides of the head.


What you see on the outside of the peak is this then horny sheath of keratin all the rhamphotheca which comes in two flavors depending upon whether it’s on the top or the bottom part of the beak.



There’s an avascular layer there which means there is blood running through it and it grows continuously in most species.


It is said that something called the bill tip organ is far more well-developed among foraging species including parrots and birds that dwell in wet habitats.


This bill tip end has a high density of nerve endings known as the corpuscles of Herbst. There you’ll find very tiny pits in the bill surface which are occupied by cells that sense pressure changes.


It is thought that this allows birds to have a remote touch which means they can detect movement without direct touch.


If you’ve ever had a finger chomped on by a large parrot the two cuts were made with the edges of the top and the bottom of the beak and these are called Tomias.


The Ridgeline of the upper part of the beak is called the Culmen – one area used to measure pending birds in the wild.


more beaks and birds


Much like feathers birds have various color banks resulting from concentrations of pigments.


We know that birds can see light in the ultraviolet spectrum which may radiate from some of their beaks once again signaling to other birds about their quality.


Some Toucans use their beaks (the walls of which are hollow) to rid themselves of excess heat.


Let’s not forget the egg tooth which is not really a tooth but a calcification projection on a full-term chick’s beak which they use to chip their way out of the egg.


more birds and beaks


Written by Mitch Rezman
Approved by Catherine Tobsing

Mitch Rezman

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