Birdie braces

Macaw beak 016For some, the word orthodontist stirs awkward teenage memories of braces and the agonising wait to be rid of mouth metal. But humans aren’t the only species requiring some orthodontic alignment.

University of Queensland Small Animal Hospital Head of Avian and Exotic Pet Service, avian specialist and exotics luminary Bob Doneley is occasionally called upon to fit what he calls “birdie braces” for beaks that have gone awry.

Wry beak, or scissor beak, as it is known among bird circles, is a condition predominantly of juvenile birds, where the maxillary beak begins to deviate laterally – usually (for unknown reasons) to the right.

As a consequence, mandibular keratin tends to proliferate, unchecked by natural wear that would occur in the case of perfect beak alignment, and pushes upwards. This places additional pressure on the maxillary beak, worsening the defect.

“It is probably more common in macaws than other species but any bird can get it,” Doneley said. This includes ostriches which, due to their sheer size, can present with spectacular cases of wry beak. (Doneley’s ostrich practice once extended from Kingaroy to Tenterfield, and from the Gold Coast to St George – so he’s seen a few ostriches in his time). Doneley has also seen the condition in eclectus parrots. Continue reading Birdie braces