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.
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:
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.
You can see it better here.
Look at the eye sockets! Huge eyes, tiny brain.
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...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)
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.