Sometimes a bird’s broken beak can heal itself. Sometimes the best efforts of wildlife rescue result in making the injury worse.
Whether the broken or cracked beak can heal or whether it would be fatal would depend on how bad it is.
In some cases, you can attend to the injured bird and get it to recover fully, but in many cases, the damage could be permanent and even fatal.
In this article, I have tried to cover everything you need to know about birds with broken beaks and how to attend to it.
Can Bird with Broken Beak Recover?
Broken beaks are always a serious injury for any bird. But sometimes the bird can recover.
Here are the basics that bird caretakers need to know.
- A cracked beak is painful for the bird. It’s analogous to a broken tooth for a human. Beaks have blood vessels and nerve endings, so any beak injury is likely to be bloody and painful.
- A beak fracture or amputation can result in life-threatening bleeding. It’s necessary to apply pressure to stop the bleeding and to get the bird to a vet as quickly as possible.
- Cracked beaks don’t grow back together, but they can grow out over time.
- Fractured, torn off, or amputated beaks won’t grow back, but sometimes they can be repaired.
Wildlife rehabilitators report success in repairing broken beaks with methyl methacrylate (a substance used to repair hooves of horses) or with dental epoxy, used for filling teeth.
Some rehab volunteers have managed to repair beaks with quick-drying epoxy cement and even with Gorilla glue.
They treat beak injuries the same way manicure salons build up nails. They add layers and layers, allowing each to dry, to build up the beak to functional strength.
But wildlife rehab specialists also report that bandaged beaks can lead to disaster.
Birds may pull at their bandages so much that they break their beaks off in the process.
Getting Your Bird to the Vet for a Broken or Cracked Beak
For pet birds, beak injuries are always a reason to take the bird to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
It’s best to limit your efforts to basic first aid and get the bird in a stable condition so that you can make the trip to the vet.
If it isn’t possible to take the bird to a vet, then there are other ways you can help.
First, Stop Bleeding
Beaks are filled with blood vessels. Birds with broken beaks can suffer a life-threatening loss of blood.
That’s why the first priority in treating a bird with a beak injury is to stop bleeding.
Sometimes, all you need to stop bleeding can be as simple as restraining the bird and applying a styptic, such as a bar soap or cornstarch.
Anything that a human would use to stop bleeding after getting a knick while shaving can also be used to stop bleeding from a bird’s beak.
Cover the wound with gauze and get the bird to a vet as soon as possible.
When applying a styptic and gauze to the wound is not enough, then it is necessary to apply pressure — and to get the bird to a vet even faster.
What to Do If Your Bird’s Beak is Cracked
A cracked beak also requires urgent care, but it’s not usually the sort of thing that means you should take your bird to the vet on an emergency basis.
When the outer layers of the beak are damaged, the soft tissues beneath them can begin to dry out.
These tissues are similar to nail beds in humans. They generate the keratin that grows into new bill tissue around the crack. They need to be kept moist.
Contact lens solution is ideal for keeping this regenerative tissue moist until your bird can be seen by the vet.
If you don’t have a contact lens solution, you can make your own saline solution. Bring two cups (500 ml) of water to a rolling boil and add one teaspoon (3 to 5 grams) of table salt.
Let the solution return to room temperature (do not apply a hot saline solution to your bird’s beak) and use it to rinse the bird’s beak every two to three hours until you can take your bird to the vet.
What to Do If Your Bird’s Beak is Split Down the Middle
Scrape the bottom of a bar of soap and roll the scrapings into a tiny ball.
Put the ball of soap shavings over your bird’s beak to hold it together, and get to the vet as quickly as possible.
This is painful for the bird, but applying the soap ball will prevent its bleeding to death.
What Your Vet Will Do to Repair a Cracked or Broken Beak
When a beak has been completely amputated, the vet will usually offer a humane way to euthanize the bird.
When a bird cracks its beak, the vet may wire the beak back together and dress it with a bandage.
Sometimes the vet will use glue and a bandage. There will be a risk of infection. Your bird will be in pain for several days.
Its beak may bleed when it drinks or eats.
The vet may give your bird a feeding tube and keep it in the animal hospital for a couple of days until it is safe to take it home.
At-Home Care for Your Bird After It Has Been Treated by the Vet
With a minor injury to the beak, a bird may only need antibiotics, pain medication, time to heal, and TLC.
With larger beak injuries, there may be several trips to the vet to restore the beak with light-activated composites (like the materials used to fill cavities in your teeth) until the beak grows back.
Fractured beaks may recover if the blood vessels and soft tissues beneath the surface are intact.
Some beak injuries will leave the bird with permanent disfigurement and require it to be given soft foods for the rest of its life, but other beak injuries result in complete recovery.
Foods for Birds with Beak Injuries
Foods that have been used successfully with birds that have beak injuries include:
- Organic baby food. Baby food has the right consistency for the bird to swallow and organic varieties should be free of contaminants.
- Handweanng pellets for hand-feeding baby birds are a good supplement to organic baby food.
- Mashed cooked sweet potatoes provide beta-carotene that a bird’s body turns into vitamin A , which stimulates growth of beak tissue.
- Mashed bananas provide electrolytes.
- Harrison’s Handfeeding Formula is pricey, but it provides complete nutrition for birds in recovery from beak injuries.
Harrison’s Handfeeding Formula comes in specialized blends for different birds at different stages of development.
The blend you want for feeding a bird recovering from a beak injury is the Recovery Formula.
The first few times you feed this product to your bird, you should dilute it to a watery consistency.
This way, you rehydrate your bird. Later, you can add just enough water to give it a yogurt-like consistency.
Warm the mixture to about 100° F (38° C), but not hotter, before you give it to your bird.
The most successful way to give this formula to your recovering bird is with a feeding syringe. (Feeding syringes never have needles.)
First, feel the bird’s crop to make sure it is empty. You don’t want to offer your bird food that it cannot swallow.
Next, position the syringe to enter the bird’s mouth at the left side, pointing the syringe toward the right side of the bird’s mouth.
If your bird swallows the food, offer it more. Don’t give your bird food or water it cannot swallow to avoid aspiration into its lungs. Aspiration can cause pneumonia.
Pet birds often recover from beak injuries with patient care from their owners. Wild birds usually don’t.
But you can do something about the most common cause of beak injuries in wild birds, collisions with windows.
How to Prevent Beak Injuries in Wild Birds
Scientists estimate that, just in the United States, nearly a billion birds a year suffer beak and head injuries from crashing into windows.
Most of these collisions are fatal to the bird.
But the iNaturalist University of the Utah Bird Window Collision Project has found that 85% of bird collisions into windows and the horrible beak and head injuries that follow can be prevented.
What Is It About Windows That Birds Fly Into Them?
Humans don’t have any trouble avoiding glass windows and doors.
Even children know that glass is there even though it is transparent.
But hard transparent surfaces don’t appear very often in nature, so birds don’t have an inborn mechanism for recognizing them.
If a human walking at 3 miles an hour collides with a shatter-proof glass door or window, no serious injury results.
But if a bird collides with a glass window flying up to 60 miles an hour, death is the likely outcome.
Here are some facts citizen scientists have discovered about birds and collisions into glass windows.
- Having any kind of tree within 10 feet of a window triples the number of bird collisions.
- Having a fruit tree next to a glass window increases the number of bird collisions by up to 1300%.
- The bigger the window, the more collisions.
- In highly social birds, like crows and cedar waxwings, several birds may be killed in a collision with a window at the same time.
- Birds that migrate at night, like warblers and windows, are more likely to collide with a window than other birds at other times, especially if there is a light on inside.
- Birds that make lots of stops in dense vegetation, like hummingbirds, are especially vulnerable to hitting windows during the day. Cowbirds and thrushes also have more collisions than most other birds during the day.
- Houses get more birds hitting their windows than highrises.
Here are eight ways to keep birds from hitting your windows:
- Place strips of tape vertically on your windows. Cut 1/4 inch (6 mm) widths of white tape and place them vertically 4 inches apart. Or cut 1/8-inch strips of black tape and place them vertically 1 inch) apart. The tape strips must cover the entire window so birds won’t think there is a way through.
- Put reflective dots on your windows. Birds will see a distorted image of their own reflection. They won’t recognize it as a bird of their own species, so they won’t attack it to defend their territory. They will just keep their distance from their reflection.
- Turn off lights that don’t need to be on at night. This is especially helpful during migration season in the spring and fall. If you have to keep a night light on, point it down, not out. Or use motion detection sensors so your lights are not on all night.
- Put up mosquito screens. Screens don’t just stop bugs. They also stop birds. Birds can see black polyethylene plastic, but there are enough spaces between the plastic ribs of the screen that you can still see out. If a bird crashes into your window anyway, the plastic will soften the blow and possibly save its beak.
- Install Acopian bird savers, also known as Zen curtains. These are decorative ropes that hang down in front of your windows from the inside of your house. Acopian bird savers do the same thing as bird tape and reflective dot, but they are easier to install and take down. The ropes hang just close enough together, about 4 inches apart, that a bird won’t think it has a way to fly forward.
- Install transparent film. Birds can’t see clean glass, but they can see tinted glass. One-way transparent film makes your windows appear opaque from the outside. Birds won’t try to fly through them, and they reduce your cooling and heating bills.
- Install external awnings or sun shades. External awnings are like blinds, only on the outside of your windows, not the inside. They make glass non-reflecting so birds see curtains, plantation shutters, or blinds inside. Awnings can be cranked up to let more light into your home on cloudy days or cranked up to let less light into your home on sunny days.
- Hang bird netting in front of your windows. Putting polyethylene bird netting in front of your windows stops birds before they can crash into glass. The mesh should be 5/8 inch, small enough that birds won’t get their heads caught in it, but large enough that they can easily get themselves out of the net if they get caught.
- Place feeders either very close to your windows or at least 15 feet away. Birds will come in for a soft landing when a feeder is placed on a window or within 5 feet of a window. They can put on the brakes if they overshoot a feeder that is at least 15 feet away from windows. The danger zone for feeders is 5 to 15 feet away from glass. Avoid putting feeders in the danger zone to keep birds safe.
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