do birds have nerves in their beaks

How Do You Trim an Overgrown Beak?

When a bird owner notices that their bird’s beak is growing too much, they should take immediate steps to have the bird examined by a veterinarian in order to rule out any underlying medical conditions as the reason for the growth and to have the beak properly clipped. An overgrown beak’s blood supply is typically even longer than that of a regular beak. Therefore, when an overgrown beak is trimmed, there is a considerable chance that bleeding will occur. Owners should therefore never attempt to trim their birds’ beaks at home.

Veterinarians can trim an overgrow beak in a number of ways. The most popular and secure technique involves using a motorized Dremel drill. Usually, the bird is wrapped in a towel and one person gently restrains it while the other gradually grinds down the beak tip with the sides of a conically-shaped grinding stone drill bit, taking care not to overstress the bird or drill for too long, as this could cause the drill bit to overheat. It’s important to take caution when trimming the beak to avoid hitting blood vessels and nerves with the drill, which could result in bleeding and excruciating pain.

With an emery board, small birds like budgerigars, finches, and cockatiels can benefit from manual beak trimming. For beak trimming, it is generally not advised to use other hand-held tools like wire cutters or toenail clippers. When beaks are trimmed with these instruments, it can accidentally split and crack the beak, jar the base of the beak (where the new protein layer forms), and cause future deformities to the beak.

Scientists think they’ve found the source of avian “map sense”

Before GPS, in order to navigate, we required a map and a compass. Migrating birds are no different. Research have indicated that the animals use an internal compass and map to travel great distances, though it’s not clear exactly where these senses are located. Scientists claim to have the most proof yet that the beak is connected to map sense.

Researchers have long suspected that migrating birds navigate by sensing Earths magnetic field. The idea was that their beaks, which contain a lot of iron, worked like real magnets, with the metal aligning itself relative to the field. Supposedly, the so-called trigeminal nerve transmitted this information to the brain. But in 2009, a team led by Henrik Mouritsen of the University of Oldenburg in Germany cut the trigeminal nerve in several European robins and found that the animals still oriented perfectly. In lab-based experiments, the birds were able to locate the natural and artificial magnetic north. It seemed that the beak played no role in the compass sense. The finding gave support to another hypothesis, one that suggested that the inner compass was instead a magnetism-sensing chemical reaction in the birds eyes.

However, Mouritsen’s team decided to conduct another test because they remained certain that the beak had to play a role in the magnetosense in some way. Near Kaliningrad, Russia, in 2010 and 2011, scientists were able to capture 57 Eurasian reed warblers. These birds travel up to 1000 kilometers northeast each spring to return to their breeding grounds in southern Scandinavia. Once more, in half of the birds, the scientists snapped the trigeminal nerve. However, they also relocated all 57 of the birds 1000 kilometers eastward, where their home site’s magnetic field is different, and then they let them go.

The warblers that had their beak-to-brain connection cut flew northeast, as if they had departed from near Kaliningrad—they had lost their “map sense” and could no longer determine their location. Those with the nerve intact, on the other hand, quickly oriented themselves and turned northwest, toward their breeding grounds, the team reports this week in PLOS ONE. This meant that the beak-to-brain system, which, according to the earlier tests, had no impact on the “compass sense,” did matter for the “map sense” of the birds—if the link was damaged, the birds simply did not know they had been displaced.

Previous studies have implicated the beak in the “map sense”; one such study used a strong magnetic pulse to numb the trigeminal nerve. However, the scientists claim that this is the first study to do so with both long-distance migratory bird displacement and trigeminal nerve severance, and the results are definitive.

The next step, according to co-author Dmitry Kishkinev, who is currently a professor at the University of Guelph in Canada, will be to identify potential magnetoreceptor locations within the beak. Magnetoreceptors could be found anywhere in these tissues because the trigeminal nerve has endings in the upper beak, palate, nasal cavity, and a portion of the orbit that houses the eyeball. “We still don’t know the precise location of the magnetoreceptors,” he claims.

Not everyone is convinced, though. For example, evidence of minuscule iron clumps within birds’ inner ears—which might or might not be magnetoreceptors—has recently been discovered by another group. However, the paper is “a really nice additional jigsaw piece” to solve the puzzle of the “map sense,” according to neurobiologist Gerta Fleissner of Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany, who was not involved in the study. However, she adds that more tests are needed.

According to Fleissner, “many more experiments, such as direct electrophysiological recordings from these sensory units, are required to provide the so-called final proof that the avian beak is housing a map-related magnetic field receptor system.” She recommends attaching electrodes to a nerve in a bird’s beak near the potential receptors and attempting to detect sensory inputs from a synthetic magnetic field.

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Can birds feel when you touch their beaks?

Bird’s beaks contain nerves call “corpuscles of Herbst” making the beak very sensitive. This is why only veterinarians should trim beaks when needed and captive bird owners should not stroke beaks as that may trigger sexual arousal.

Does cutting a birds beak hurt?

It is never advisable to trim your bird’s beak at home, as there is a large blood vessel running down the center of the beak that will bleed profusely if it is nicked. The tip of the upper beak has a substantial nerve supply and will cause pain if it is broken or trimmed improperly.

Can birds hurt their beak?

What Causes Beak Injuries? Birds that use their beaks to help them climb around their bird cages or that chew on cage bars or hard wood may occasionally chip off small pieces of the keratin outer-covering on the tips and sides of their beaks.

Can birds feel pain?

From transduction to transmission, modulation, projection, and perception, birds possess the neurologic components necessary to respond to painful stimuli and they likely perceive pain in a manner similar to mammals.