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The avian beak is a complex organ containing bone, neurovascular tissue, and keratinized covering (rhamphotheca). Nerve-rich papillae extend through bone into rhamphotheca providing sensory input from the beak tip. Beak trimming is a common procedure in avian species and is used for corrective, cosmetic, and behavioral modification purposes. Yet, practitioners are not well versed in complete beak anatomy, and therefore, beak trimming often disregards neurovasculature, injuring the patient and hampering recovery. Here, using comprehensive anatomical description, we aim to provide recommendations on how to safely perform beak trimming without damaging underlying sensory papillae.


Here, we evaluated beaks of 2 deceased grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus).


In one, we used a novel stain and microcomputed tomography to visualize papillae in the upper and lower beaks. In a second, we hand isolated the upper and lower beak dermal papillae and used high-resolution photography plus traditional paraffin histology.


Papillae and their nerves were easily identified in these 2- and 3-dimensional approaches. This allowed us to determine the approximate lengths of papillae within the upper and lower beak.


Based on these findings, the authors recommend lateral radiographs of the bird’s head and beak to identify the location of the underlying bone relative to the overlying rhamphotheca before performing beak trims. Specifically in grey parrots, the authors recommend the upper and lower beak should not be trimmed closer than 8 to 10 mm from the underlying bone. Further work is needed to support these recommendations and provide guidelines for other species.

Open access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research


OBJECTIVE To determine the clinical features, treatment, and outcomes of treatment for oral and cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in avian species.

DESIGN Retrospective case series with nested cohort study.

ANIMALS 87 client-owned birds of various species with histologically confirmed SCC of the skin or oral cavity.

PROCEDURES Clinicians entered case information through an online survey tool. Data were collected regarding patient signalment, concurrent conditions, treatments, adverse effects, and clinical outcomes. Relationships were examined between complete excision and partial or complete response. Survival analysis was performed to compare outcomes among groupings of therapeutic approaches.

RESULTS Only 7 of 64 (11%) birds for which full outcome data were available had complete remission of SCC; 53 (83%) had progressive disease, were euthanized, or died of the disease. The unadjusted OR for partial or complete response following complete tumor excision (vs other treatment approaches) was 6.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8 to 25.8). Risk of death was 62% lower (hazard ratio, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.19 to 0.77) for birds that underwent complete excision versus conservative treatment. Median survival time from initial evaluation for birds receiving complete excision was 628 days (95% CI, 210 to 1,008 days), compared with 171 days (95% CI, 89 to 286 days) for birds receiving monitoring with or without conservative treatment. Birds receiving any other additional treatment had a median survival time of 357 days (95% CI, 143 to 562 days).

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE For birds with SCC, complete excision was the only treatment approach significantly associated with complete or partial response and increased survival time.

Full access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association