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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Woodpecker with freakish beak photographed

This extraordinary woodpecker - with its freakishly long beak - has been spotted feeding from a domestic garden feeder.

Experts have claimed the beak was the biggest they had ever seen and are surprised it can fly - let alone feed.

Woody', with his extra long beak, using a feeder (right) and a woodpecker with a normal beak (left)

Bird watchers Janet and Bob Morton first spied red-crested male 'Woody' over the winter at their home in Rosedale, near Pickering, North Yorkshire.

Mr Morton, 62, a retired RAF pilot, said: "Woody comes everyday now, you can't miss him. We first noticed the beak at Christmas when he arrived with a female and a baby.

"We just couldn't believe how big it was. Compared to his mate you can see it should be at least half that size."

The woodpecker's beak is used to signal possession of territory to rivals and locate winding tunnels in tree trunks containing grubs and larvae.

Luckily, Woody has no trouble flying, nesting or feeding and has not chopped down any trees so far.

Tony Richardson, from the RSPB in Exeter, said: "The creature does have a serious beak deformity. It's probably 120 per cent bigger than it should be.

"A bird's beak grows much like hair and nails on a human but natural wear and tear should keep it in check, especially on a woodpecker.

"Many birds wouldn't be able to survive with this handicap but luckily woodpeckers have enormous tongues so this one is still able to gather food."

Original here

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