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A white-winged crossbill (female, probably an adult) perches where the birds are most commonly encountered, near the cone-bearing top of a spruce tree. Keith Corliss/Forum Communications Co.

Odd bill keeps bird searching for food

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Every once in a while, a keen observer will spot an obvious flaw in the seemingly error-free world of bird morphology. Maybe it's a missing toe or eye. Sometimes it's a feather colored differently than the rest or a wing that can no longer support flight. The sources of such deviations can either come from within the bird, such as a hormonal imbalance causing errant color pigmentation. Or it can be external, like a tailless bird having barely escaped the lunge of a neighborhood cat.

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