Saturday, May 30, 2009

The "Yuck" Factor

Definition of Yuck Factor:
The amount of digustingness you can handle before you yarp.

If you have a Low Yuck Factor, you might want to skip to the end of this post.

Before I started working at RAPTOR, the only thing that really made me oogie was vomit. Having kids helped a bit...when they are sick, you just have to deal with it. But I still got a weird feeling in my throat when I had to clean it up.
Blood was never really an issue for me...I worked for a podiatrist for years and assisted him with in-office surgeries. You wouldn't even believe what kind of damage a person can do to their feet.
Non-compliant diabetics with huge ulcerations and crawling with maggots. You get the idea.

Working with birds of prey isn't like caring for a pet parrot. Or dogs or cats.
Birds of prey are meat-eaters and you can't just run down the A & P for kibble. Feeding them involves handing over mice, rats, day-old chicks and quail. Sometimes road-kill. If it's fresh.

Falling in love with the birds helped me get over the revulsion I felt, tossing a freshly-dead rodent.
I have said at programs that my "Yuck Factor" is gone.
I've enjoyed a "been there, done that" attitude.
I learned today that I can still get grossed out.

Our female American Kestrel Magnolia, decided to lay some eggs this year. They are infertile, since she was alone in her mew for months. This happens occasionally, and when it does, we addle the eggs, just in case (Shaking the eggs to ensure the egg doesn't allow a chick to develop). I try to keep this simple for people who ask during programs, and someone always does.
We do NOT kill baby chicks. We are a rescue and rehab facility, not a breeding center. There are raptor centers who have breeding permits. We have permits for rehab and education and that's it.
When the eggs are addled, we give them back to the female to incubate. If we removed eggs every time she laid one, she would continue to produce them until her body was exhausted.

We removed three eggs today, and I wanted to use them for my programs. (I have a box full of specimens...heads, wings, bodies, pellets)
But I had to remove the contents of the eggs first.
Ever blown out a chicken egg? You tap a hole in both ends of the egg and then blow out the insides.
kestrel egg 1
I was fine until I put my lips on the egg.
This wasn't a chicken egg. This egg came from the hind end of a kestrel. My mouth is on a falcon egg!!!!!
I blew hard into the egg and watched as gooey stuff sprayed out the other end. Oh my God.
Okay, Susan. You can do this. Just two more.
My throat tightened up as I finished the rest. God, this is gross!

I rinsed the eggs with water...then realized I had yolk on my lips.
Kestrel yolk. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
(On the drive home, I was idly twirling my hair and realized that there was dried yolk in it.)

I focused on my education box (after scrubbing my mouth until I thought my lips would come off). I weeded out the ragged specimens and looked for some new ones. I found a barn owl head in another box. It was old and tired, but I decided to skin it, so I could add it to my skull collection.
Here I have removed the skin from the side of the skull, and the ear and eye openings can be seen:
Skinning barn owl skull 1
The large round hole in the front is the eye opening, and the dark irregular hole is the ear opening. The hole on the skull that looks fuzzy (from the cotton stuffing) is the aperture for hearing. Barn owls and others have asymmetrically set ear openings, and the openings are large and round. Owl beaks are flat against their faces to allow sound waves to travel undeterred to the ears. Strictly nocturnal owls have a very pronounced facial disc to increase the surface that sounds waves can travel.

I've said it before...owls are COOL.

barn owl ear opening 1
You can see it better here.

barn owl skull
Look at the eye sockets! Huge eyes, tiny brain.

GHOW and BNOW skull comparison
Comparison of Great Horned Owl skull (left) and Barn Owl skull (right)

To cleanse your mental palate, I offer up these goodies:
Priscilla (our program Barred Owl) had a vet visit this week to examine her left wing. She has been letting that wing droop more lately, and the vet says she just bruised it and she got a clean bill of health.
Barred owl with bars
Barred Owl...behind Bars.

There must have been something delicious in the driveway near the barn and Hackberry Emperors were all over the place.
I asked one to climb onto my finger so I could get a good look (and a good photo)
Hackberry Emperor
Pretty little things...this one tasted my fingers for about 5 minutes. I'm yummy!

Now everyone can go wash out their brains. Sorry for the yuckiness.


Anonymous said...

We all have different thresholds for yuck. I dont' think blowing out the non-chicken eggs would bug me. Then again, when I had morning sickness, I threw up when I smelled mud. So . . . what are you gonna do?

Beth said...

Yuck, yuck, yuck. I think the worst yuck-experience I had was working in the dining room at the retirement community and a residnet had an episode of projectile vomiting. After the nursing department came and took her away, I had to clean up the table and the floor - in front of all the other customers (although how they could stay there and eat was beyond me!). I gagged so many times that my stomach muscles cramped. Nothing has ever affected me that way again. *shudder*


Stacy said...

I always wondered where the expression 'addled' came from. Now I know. It makes perfect sense.

as far as yuck factor; ya; ya have a child and you adjust your tiara and move on.

I'd like to see you with an EMU egg darlin! My mom in AZ has emus, their eggs are HUGE (not just huge-ish) and green & leathery looking. She has gifted me with Christmas ornaments she's made from the eggs that aren't fertile. Blowing an Emu egg must be the apitamy (sp) of gross. I treasure the ornament, I never want to make one myself.

LOVE the skulls~! So cool!!!

haha, guess we can add a new phrase, instead of 'blowing chunks' you can say 'blowing an egg'.... maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I've heard of blowing eggs, to make decorations. I think it's one of those things you're better off not thinking about, but just doing.

The devil is in the details.

KGMom said...

I bet the hackberry emperor was tasting blown-out egg yolk. That's why it feasted for 5 minutes. No?

jemkagily said...

Susan! What serendipitous timing! I came home from a dog walk last night with a cool-looking carnivore skull, almost but not quite clean. Any recommendations on how to clean it so that I can use it as a biofact? I'm guessing it's from a fox but I won't know for sure until I measure it and get a better look at the teeth.
Junior Science Chimp Wendi

KatDoc said...


In college, we put nearly clean animal skulls on an ant mound. They did the work for us.

You can boil a skull, but you may lose some of the attachments, so ants work best, if you have some helpful ones around.

~Kathi, another Jr. S.C.

Richard said...

I was thinking that you could use maggots to clean the skull. Seems to work on the TV show "Bones"

Anonymous said...

Nice shots but then I don't know that much about this kind of work.

You probably don't remember when people lived and died at home and endured wakes. I wrote about it here.

dguzman said...

Holy hand grenade. *urghpp*


Thanks for the butterfly! So that's what those are? There were everywhere when I was a kid.