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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK
Freaky Beaky's love of dripping
'Freaky beaky' by Solentnews.biz
The beak is 5 times longer than average. Photo: Solentnews.biz
Freaky Beaky the blue tit owes his life to a diet of bread and dripping.

The bird has a one-inch (2.5cm) beak, almost five times the average, which has left him unable to enjoy a normal blue tit diet of insects, seeds and nuts.

The four-inch (10cm) bird was a regular visitor to a house in Brambridge, near Winchester, in Hampshire, where the owner noticed the unusual bird was unable to eat the food in her bird feeder.

She tried putting some wholemeal bread fried in beef dripping into the feeder, and was delighted when Freaky Beaky kept coming back for more.

Wildlife photographer Richard Lawrence took photographs of the bird from inside his mother's house.

Mr Lawrence, 51, from Looe, in Cornwall, said: "I was inside the house, about 10ft away from the bird when I took the shot.

"My mother had been going on at me for a long time about coming over to get a shot of Freaky Beaky.

"But I couldn't believe it when I actually saw him.

"He wasn't able to eat anything like peanuts because of his beak.

The bird's not actually tamed but he definitely knows where the food is
Wildlife photographer Richard Lawrence
"But my mother found that he loved bread fried in dripping. She just put it inside the bird feeder.

"The bird's not actually tamed but he definitely knows where the food is.

"He keeps coming back every day to feed because he can't get food anywhere else.

"He wouldn't have lived if she hadn't found a way of feeding him."

Mr Lawrence, who works as an operator for South West Water, has been taking wildlife and nature photographs for 35 years.

But he says that getting a shot of Freaky Beaky was one of his more unusual challenges.

He added: "It was certainly pretty remarkable - I've taken a lot of pictures of birds in my time but I haven't seen a bird like him before."

Disease suspicion

Bird experts agreed that Freaky Beaky owes his survival to his special diet.

Andre Farrar, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: "Blue tits normally have short, powerful, stubby beaks that allow them to pick up insects, seeds and berries but this one clearly has a gross deformity which means he can only eat out of the side of his beak.

"The bread and dripping was a lifeline for this plucky little chap.

"It's going to be a challenge but this is clearly an adult bird which has survived the winter so he may do just fine."

Freaky Beaky can expect to enjoy the average blue tit life span of three to four years.

Mr Farrar said it was difficult to say what caused the super size beak but that it may be what farmers know as "feather and beak" disease, a condition that causes abnormalities in birds.

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