NAILS AND BEAKS

NOTE: As owners of this website, we have chosen to share our experiences and opinions on these webpages. We present this info "as is", and we shall have no liablility to anyone regarding any circumstance or occurrence related to the starling(s) or other birds in their care. It is each starling owner's responsibility to make the best choices for the diet, safety, health, care and wellbeing of his or her own starling.

How Wild Starlings Keep Nails and Beaks Trim

Wild European starlings use their specialized beaks to forcefully pry apart vegetation, rocks, and dirt as they hunt for grubs and insects. They also swipe their beaks frequently on hard surfaces such as rocks, rough tree branches, pavement, fence posts, wooden surfaces, etc. Performing such behaviors helps keep their beaks the proper length. Their nails are kept worn down by the variety of abrasive surfaces on which they walk and perch (tree branches, rocks, streets, sidewalks, roofs, ledges, etc).


Helping a Pet Starling Maintain Nails and Beak

Because pet starlings do not forage in the ground and do not have access to all the types of rough surfaces that wild starlings have in the outdoors, it can be difficult for some to maintain proper length of their nails and beaks.

In order to help our starlings keep their nails and beaks trim, we supply their cages and play areas with natural tree branch perches (of various diameters) with rough bark on them. We also provide a concrete perch for each bird. Other items to which we give our birds constant access include a shallow container of rocks, a large rough rock, a brick, a lava rock, and a terra cotta pot. A pet starling who has access to a variety of rough surfaces does a better job of maintaining its own nails and beak. We seldom need to trim toenails, and overgrown beaks are never a problem for our birds.

If Trimming Becomes Necessary

Why Trim?
Some pet starlings may be unable to maintain proper beak and/or nail length despite having plenty of rough surfaces available to them. If a pet starling's nails become too overgrown, they can cause foot problems, or they may get hung in something in the home and cause broken toes or other injuries. Many pet starlings will actually break off their upper beak tip before if it grows too long. However, if a pet starling's upper beak grows so long that it interferes with eating and preening, then it is time to trim it.

If you are uncomfortable with the thought of trimming nails or beak at home, then consider taking your bird to a vet who is experienced with birds. Vets usually charge nominal fees for trimming, and most vets will be glad to show you how to trim at home.

Properly Holding a Starling for a Nail or Beak Trim
Before trimming your starling's nails or beak, you MUST be sure you know how to properly and safely hold your bird! It is very easy to grasp a bird too tightly its body, thereby compressing its air sacs and suffocating it. See the following webpage for an example of how to hold a starling safely: How to safely hold an adult wild bird

Some starling owners hold their birds in one hand and trim nails or beaks with the other hand, while others have someone hold their birds for them as they trim. How you choose to do this will depend on your level of comfort with holding a bird and on whether your starling is one who tends to fight so much so much during trims that you cannot hold him in one hand. For us, it works best to make nail trims a two person job -- one person to hold the bird and another to do the clipping.

Trimming Nails

How long should a starling's nails be?
We prefer our own starlings' nails to be no longer than about 1/4 or 1/3 of a circle. If a starling has overly-long nails, its nails can get caught on things in the environment, resulting in injury.

Tools
Clippers -- We currently use a small scissors type clipper to trim a bird's nails. (These are sold in most pet stores and can be found in the bird section or in the cat or small dog sections.) We have also used nail clippers made for humans. We know of some starling owners who prefer to use guillotine type clippers made for small animals (sold in pet stores). Whatever type clipper you choose, make sure it is SHARP.

Clotting agent, in case of bleeding -- Cornstarch works well for stopping bleeding. (Styptic powder may be used on nails, but we do not recommend using it on beaks or any other part of a bird.)

Trimming
Once you or your partner have your bird in the proper hold, carefully clip off the sharp tip of each nail. Only clip a small part of each nail during this first trim. If you clip too much, you could knick the blood vessel in the bird's nail (the "quick") and cause bleeding. If your bird's nail begins bleeding, dip the nail in cornstarch, flour, or styptic powder. If the bleeding does not stop, try applying pressure.

If a birds' nails are extremely long, we feel that it is a good idea to clip only a small amount off of the nails every few days until we gradually get the bird's nails the proper length. This gives the blood vessel inside the nail time to recede before the next trim job and will lessen the chance of causing bleeding when clipping.

Trimming a Beak

We do not suggest trimming a pet starling's beak unless it is so long that it intereferes with eating and preening. Thus, we will mention only brief, general info about beak trims.

Some starling owners choose to file their bird's overly long beaks with a nail file, which is generally safe if done carefully. Clippers may be used for beak trims, however, they must be sharp, as dull clippers could cause a split in the bird's beak. As with nail trimming, cornstarch should be within reach in case of bleeding. If clipping a starling's beak, it is recommended to snip off only a tiny bit with each clip. If the beak is overly long, consider clipping only a small amount every few days until proper length is reached. Cutting off too much of the beak at one time could cause a split in the beak. Please note that it is crucial when trimming a beak that you do not cut too much, as this can result in severe bleeding and an emergency situation! If bleeding does occur, try applying cornstarch to the end of the beak and applying pressure until the bleeding stops. If bleeding is severe, get the bird to a vet.

If your starling's beak is overly long and you do not feel comfortable trimming it yourself, please have an experienced veterinarian do it for you. Some veterinarians will even teach their clients how to clip beaks themselves or how to safely trim them using a dremel tool. (NOTE: We suggest that you do not use a dremel on a bird's beak without being shown how by an experienced vet!)


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