Sunday, December 11, 2011

Buddy's New Beak: The Technology Revolution: Prosthetic Beaks for Parrots

Buddy's New Beak
Photos Courtesy Betsy Lott, Mollywood Avian Sanctuary

We have been fortunate that none of our parrots have ever lost a beak in an accident or animal attack. Unfortunately we know people with parrots that have lost beaks. It's not a pretty situation. In the past, options for rehabilitation have been limited. But now, with new materials and new reconstructive techniques, we are starting to see prosthetic beaks as a viable alternative.

Twenty-nine year old Umbrella Cockatoo Buddy, Before

Buddy is a twenty-nine year old Umbrella Cockatoo parrot, currently residing at Mollywood Avian Sanctuary in Bellingham, Washington. Buddy lost part of his beak in an attack by another Umbrella Cockatoo. He was bitten in the beak and the growth plate between the nares was forever damaged. At first, Mollywood's Betsy Lott thought it would grow out normally. After some time however, the fissure decayed and a huge chunk fell out. Betsy Lott began to worry what that would mean for Buddy.

After initial reconstruction

Buddy needed a new beak. Since he couldn't grow one, a new beak needed to be constructed for him! The architect of Buddy's new acrylic beak is avian veterinarian Dr. Bridget Ferguson with Animal Health Care Center of Renton, Washington.

Dr. Ferguson used a mold to create Buddy's new beak, described by Betsy Lott as a:

"Kind of a hoaky homemade thing that didn’t exactly go as planned. It was some wax lined drinking cups (overgown Dixie) that we cut and spiraled. The thing sticking up with the blue tip was something we used to keep Buddy's nare open so the compound didn’t fill in. When the mold came off, we were like, 'Uh oh.' Not exactly what we were hoping for but thank god for dremels. We dremeled the holy heck out of it."

The acrylic compound is brand new to the market, produced by
Imex Veterinary Products.
 The acrylic compound was originally used as a fixing agent for setting pins in bones for broken limbs. Most importantly for parrots, the compound is practically odorless, unlike most acrylic compounds on the market. Imagine how the birds must feel waking up to the odor following their procedures!
Dr. Ferguson
reported that in all the years she’s been doing beak repairs, this was the first time she had a bird wake up without sinus issues or irritation. 
Betsy Lott
Mollywood Avian Sanctuary
pleaded with the president of
to let them experiment with the compound on
agreed to put
in their Beta program. The white acrylic compound used on
is opaque and not conducive to x-rays, so
is developing a clear formula for future release.
couldn't wait for the clear acrylic compound to be developed. He needed a functional beak!

According to Betsy Lott, Buddy needed his new beak filled after two and one-half months. Dr. John Berry with Lynden Veterinary Hospital let Betsy use his office in Lynden, Washington. Aided by notes and copious photographs taken from the surgery with Dr. FergusonBetsy Lott was assisted by Dr. Berry's licensed veterinary technician Keri Griffith, currently studying dentistry in mammals. Buddy's new acrylic beak required delicate work, sweat, patience, dremels, and hammers. And one gutsy parrot!

Buddy's New Beak

In a future blog post we will investigate the evolving science and engineering behind prosthetic parrot beaks. Stay tuned!

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