Thursday, 31 May 2012

Baby bird with 2 heads, three beaks found in Northampton


NORTHAMPTON - There are plenty of rare sights during spring in the Pioneer Valley, but perhaps few quite as rare as what April Britt found in the backyard of her Hinckley Street home: a two-headed, three-beaked baby bird.
Britt said she found the bird near the base of a tree in her yard Monday afternoon and, figuring it wouldn't survive for long on the ground, returned it to its nest and to the pair of cardinals inside.
Britt said the deformed bird didn't make any sound that she could hear and appeared to only be able eat with assistance from the adult birds in the nest. It seemed that the bird's middle beak didn't work well and wasn't fully formed to grip food or eat on its own. And the partially formed beaks on either side didn't appear to be connected to the bird's throat, she said.
PHOTO COURTESY APRIL BRITT
Tom Lautzenheiser, regional scientist for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said abnormalities like the one Britt found do occur from time to time, but most times they're not witnessed.
Lautzenheiser said that in most cases, animals with such severe deformities do not survive to birth, and the ones that do usually perish a short time after.
Finding an animal with such a pronounced deformity having lived long enough to move about on its own and find its way out of the nest make the find that much more unusual, Lautzenheiser said.
The bird's abnormalities, Lautzenheiser said, could be the result of random chance, some type of problem during development in which a pair of embryos didn't split as they should have, man-made chemicals affecting the development of the embryo, or a combination of those factors.
On Tuesday morning, the baby bird and two adults were no longer in the tree where they had made a home, Britt said, leaving the question of whether it could survive on its own up for debate.
Britt, 67, said she has a habit of saving lost or displaced animals when she finds them - everything from a snapping turtle she lured with a stick into her car to be dropped off at a nearby pond, to the ants and spiders she finds in the house and carries outside in a jar rather than stomp on them.
She said the bird wasn't around long enough for her to give it a name, but she thought of one in hindsight.
"I could have called this one 'Beaker,'" she said.

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