But vets at the Scottish Agricultural College say the body was intact when it was recovered from the harbour at Cellardyke. Barti Synge, the SAC's veterinary services group manager, said yesterday that he did not understand why some officials had sought to blame the delays on the absence of a head.
"My information is that it did have a head but it was difficult to identify in terms of species because it had been predated," he said. "I don't know where the suggestion came from that it did not have a head. It didn't come from us. We were just unable to identify it with any certainty. The fact that it's a whooper is a minor detail and there certainly hasn't been any cover-up."
Earlier this week Ross Finnie, the Scottish environment minister, said DNA tests on the bird had shown it was a whooper, which had probably flown to the UK from Iceland, Russia or Scandinavia.
Officials said the failure to correctly identify the bird until a week after it was first confirmed to have the H5N1 strain of bird flu had made no difference to risk assessments or to measures monitoring birds for the virus.
A spokesman said the bird had been hard to identify, and had to be tested twice.