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Do Turtles Have Beaks?

Turtle & Tortoise Beaks

Yes, both turtles and tortoises have beaks. Aquatic turtles don’t need their beaks trimmed like turtles, but box turtles may need theirs trimmed.

If you look at the above tortoise, you can see that its beak is extending down past its jaw and is overgrown. Additionally you can also see its nails are over grown and also need trimming.

Below is an image of a tortoise with a beak that has been maintained and is at a normal length.

Normal beak

To help box turtles and tortoises maintain their beak and prevent excessive growth, you can provide them with either cuttlebone or a Zoo Med tortoise block for them to chew on.

These hard items help to wear down the beaks and keep them maintained. You may need to try both out to see which the tortoise prefers. Like us, tortoises have their preferences too.

Trimming a tortoise’s beak

Disclaimer: While you can do it yourself we highly recommend having an expert grind down an overgrown beak. They can sedate the animal to make the experience less traumatic.

In case your are experienced or will be supervised while doing it, below are the steps to trim your tortoises beak.

Firstly, you need supplies. To trim the tortoise’s beak, you need

How to trim the beak

A tortoise likely won’t remain still as you trim the beak. It will likely keep moving the beak away and may even tuck the head into the shell making it difficult to trim the beak.

Having another person can make the entire process simpler. The other person can gently grip the tortoise’s head so you can trim the beak. It is a tricky task. And if you’re unsure, the task is best left to an expert.

If you have this done by a vet, they will sedate the tortoise in order to make it a less stressful experience for the animal.

Step 1 – Keep tortoise from moving around

To stop the tortoise from squirming relentlessly, wrap it in a towel. In addition to binding the turtle and making it more comfortable, the paper towel adds extra grip.

Wrap the entire tortoise up leaving only the head unwrapped. This makes it easy to trim the beak. The tortoise cannot push away the clippers or file away. With its body wrapped, the turtle cannot shield the face.

Step 2 – Trim beak with clippers

Use the clippers to clip away at the beak. Angle the clippers at 45 degrees on both sides of the overgrowth, and then trim the tip of the beak. Clip the beak into the natural shape as much as you can. Trim the beak until you get close to the normal size.

Step 3 – File down beak

Next, use the file to trim the beak down to its normal size. To avoid injuries do not use abrasive files. Use a nail file or an emery board.

Final words on trimming

An overgrown upper beak makes it difficult for the tortoise to grab, chew and swallow food. This can be detrimental to their health. The overgrown beak can be easily filed down using a rotary grinding device such as a Dremel tool or a nail file. The process isn’t painful to the turtle. It is always better to have a vet trim the turtle’s beak.

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