An oddball swan has been nicknamed 'Wonky' by wildlife rescuers after a clumsy member of his flock crash-landed on him - leaving him with a deformed NECK.
The sight of the unusual-looking bird waddling along with his neck spiralling sideways and his head lolling to one side sparked fears for his concern from walkers.
But after being checked over by wildlife experts and a vet this week he was given a clean bill of health and allowed back to his flock.
It is thought that Wonky suffered a broken neck or damage to tendons when the in November 2020 at his home on the banks of the River Stour estuary, Essex.
However, with breeding season coming up, the poor male swan - or cob - is now facing the rest of his flock pairing off around him - whilst he is still largely seen on his own.
Gill Lewis, founder of WeCare Wildlife Rescue in Manningtree, Essex - close to where Wonky and his flock can be found - took in the unusual-looking mute swan this week to monitor him overnight.
But the 56-year-old said that Wonky was "not very happy" to be taken away from the rest of his flock - so they made the decision to release him back into the estuary in Mistley, Essex.
Gill said: "It's a difficult one, because we've had lots of reports from members of the public raising concerns over Wonky's wellbeing.
"I took him in and had him in my garden for a couple of days and overnight so that I could take him to the vet and get him checked over.
"The vet checked his neck and he is fine - although carrying an old injury, it is not broken.
"We think that when the reported crash-landing incident happened back in November he must have either suffered a break or damage to a tendon, and it has just healed like this.
"Other than this, his wings and legs are all ok and he is alert and feisty.
"He was quite angry about being taken away from his flock - he certainly gave my dogs the back-off treatment with lots of aggressive hissing!"
Gill added that the swan looks "a bit like a Halloween costume" when he walks along with his head hanging down to one side.
But she said: "We decided it would be the most fair thing to release him back with the rest of the flock in Mistley.
"It's a case of knowing what's best for the birds, and when to interfere with nature and when not to."
Gill said that volunteers from WeCare Wildlife Rescue, and the charity SwanWatch, have been taking it in turns to give extra feeds to the swans twice a day.
She said: "They're a wild flock but they're on the tame side, and we've been giving extra feed to them since November, as the flock was not looking in the best of health.
"Every time we look out for Wonky, he looks odd with his head resting on his back between his wings.
"But he happily joins the feeding scrum and can hold his own. He can still extend his neck fully to feed and to defend himself. We've even seen him fly.
"We will continue to monitor him and give him extra feed. With luck, he'll find a mate and live a long and happy life."
If anyone in the area sees an animal they are concerned about they can contact WeCare on their Facebook page.