Nail Sharpening

Nail sharpening describes the act of a pet bird sharpening its nails.

Nail sharpening describes the act of a pet bird sharpening its nails.

Some parrots really seem to sharpen their nails overnight, such as some African grey parrots, which seem capable of turning their claws into hypodermic needles in the few hours between dusk and dawn. (In reality, it doesn’t really happen this way, of course.) At any rate, sharp nails are useful for a parrot’s survival in the wild, as they enable a bird a better grip on perches and food. In captivity, sharp nails can be a detriment for a companion bird, however, as people resent getting scratched up by a bird’s claws. They can also be problematic for caged birds like finches and canaries, because overly long nails increase the risk of nails becoming caught on things and getting ripped out.


A variety of approaches can help with this circumstance. A properly sized abrasive “grooming perch” (in addition to other perches) works well with some birds, though owners need to check the bottoms of the bird’s feet routinely to make sure no soreness develops. Aviculturist E.B. Cravens recommends providing flat rocks for the bird to sit on, as they can wear off nail tips naturally. If neither of these techniques work, then routine grooming might be necessary to keep nails from growing too long, but care should be taken to nip off only the tips in most cases. Unless a bird’s nails are seriously overgrown, there should be no need to cut back a nail so much that it bleeds.

Disclaimer:’s Bird Behavior Index is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your bird’s health if you suspect your pet is sick. If your pet is showing signs of illness or you notice changes in your bird’s behavior, take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

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