Unidentified Flying Objects Show Up In Spooky Bird X-Rays

Mysterious x-ray of a Coot, in care at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center

At International Bird Rescue there’s something about anniversaries and weird x-rays.

Five years ago, as our nonprofit reached its 35th anniversary, we received quite a bit of attention over a Mallard Duck whose x-ray seemed to contain the oblong face of an alien. With a spooky grimace and socket-like eyes staring out from the Mallard’s stomach, this x-ray got more Internet buzz than many of International Bird Rescue’s greatest accomplishments. The original x-ray was even auctioned off on eBay to raise much needed funding for our ongoing clinical care.

Now, as we celebrate 40 years of rescue and rehabilitation, another curious x-ray is upon us – this time with an American Coot in care for a fractured clavicle whose x-ray reveals an eerie shape much like a human skull. While The San Francisco Chronicle called the image in the Duck’s x-ray “facelike” and mentioned the prominent brows that made the eye-like gaps so reminiscent of the cliché alien, the Coot’s x-ray is even more strikingly archetypal.

X-ray of duck: Is it the face or head of an alien?

In any hospital environment, animal or human, the smiles that come from unusual events can be therapeutic. Still, our focus remains on ensuring that the Coot has the best chance for recovery and return to its home in the wild. This injured Coot’s future looks bright, with calcium supplementation, all the food it can eat, and a safe place to heal. The bizarre skull shape in its stomach is likely made up of grain.

However, many of the objects our wildlife rehabilitators find in patients’ stomachs are much scarier than menacing aliens and lurking skeletons. From fishing hooks, bb pellets, and coins to plastics and other everyday trash, aquatic birds really do suffer from the ingestion of scary, dangerous objects.

The good news is that it is in our power to help. Please make it a point to keep beaches and other animal habitats clean for aquatic birds, seabirds and other wildlife – Let’s leave the scary stuff to the spooks!

This juvenile Snowy Egret swallowed a hook larger than its stomach.