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Big Garden Beak Watch

Report your observations…

We know surprisingly little about bill deformities in birds and their underlying causes, perhaps because they remain relatively uncommon. As a first step to increasing our understanding, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has just launched a new survey. Called Big Garden Beak Watch, it aims to find out more about the species involved and how individual birds cope with different types of deformity.

With its network of 15,000 Garden BirdWatchers, the BTO is well-placed to learn about the lives of garden birds and, over recent months, its participants have highlighted a number of birds with distinct beak abnormalities. Deformities can include crossed beaks, decurved upper beaks and elongated beaks.

In order to find out how common different beak deformities are and to explore which species are most frequently affected, the BTO is launching Big Garden Beak Watch. Householders that see a bird with a deformed beak are being asked to report their observation to the BTO. Observations will ideally be made through an online survey form (www.bto.org/gbw), which asks simple questions about the bird and its behaviour, but those without access to the Internet can send their observations to the BTO at Big Garden Beak Watch, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.Dr Tim Harrison, BTO Garden Ecology Team, commented: “Beak abnormalities have been reported in over 60 species of birds worldwide, from sparrows to pigeons, warblers to gulls. Successful adaptation to deformities appears to be more likely if the abnormality occurs gradually rather than as a result of sudden injury. However, there is much that we do not know and we hope that the public can help.”

He added “We anticipate that observers will report back some fascinating behaviour. Some individuals with bill deformities have been observed tilting their head to one side in order to feed, while others even seem to benefit from their ailment; for example, one deformed Great Tit was quicker at extracting nuts from their shells than a normal-billed individual!”

Householders who wish to participate in Big Garden Beak Watch or would like more information should visit www.bto.org/gbw from 29 December 2010, email gbw@bto.org, or write to Big Garden Beak Watch, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU.

4th July 2014