Friday, May 26, 2006

Bizzare Duck X-Ray

As if crop circles weren't proof enough that extraterrestrials are among us, an alien has now been found in the stomach of a duck.

That, at least, is the conclusion reached by workers at the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Cordelia (Solano County) when they viewed an X-ray image they took of a sick mallard.

Right there, in the duck's ventriculus, or gizzard, is the shocking image of a grimacing, bald-headed being. How it got there, nobody knows, but when an autopsy was performed after the bird died of unrelated causes, the alien had mysteriously disappeared.

"We're a 35-year-old organization, and we've seen a lot of things -- bullets, fish hooks -- but this is the first time anything like this has shown up," said Jay Holcomb, executive director of the bird rescue center, which was founded in 1971 after an oil spill beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. "I don't know my aliens well, but it looks like one of those with the big eyes and the long fingers."

The drake in question arrived at the center Sunday with a broken wing. Workers do not know how the mallard was injured, but it was clearly weak and emaciated. In an effort to pinpoint the trouble, Maria Travers, the assistant rehabilitation manager, took a radiograph image of the bird. She was stunned by what she saw.

"Look at this," she shouted. "It's an alien head!"

Holcomb admitted the strange image could have been an odd arrangement of grain in the stomach, similar to the anomalous "Face on Mars" photographed by the Viking Lander when it orbited the Red Planet in 1976.

Ducks sometimes eat grain or even gravel and use it as a kind of internal grinding mechanism when they are digesting food, Holcomb explained. An autopsy Thursday revealed some grain in the bird's stomach, but nothing else out of the ordinary.

Still, it is hard to deny the clarity of the alien image. No long fingers can be seen, but the face certainly has prominent brows, a small button nose that is slightly askew and a scary grimace.

Unusual characteristics are commonly on display among male mallards during the spring mating season, according to Travers. Their testicles, for instance, grow to three times the size of their brains, but they have never been known to sprout an alien head, she said.

"The bird rescue center is the national leader in oiled-wildlife response management. Wildlife experts and center volunteers have traveled the world helping more than 150 species of wild birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, including many rare and endangered species, not just in oil spills, but after accidents, mass strandings and other life-threatening situations.

The nonprofit, which relies mostly on volunteers, struggles every year for the publicity and funding it needs to pay for its programs.

All of which may explain why the X-ray has caused such a stir at the center. One could not help but notice, given the apparent shock of the discovery, how quickly Holcomb and the center volunteers gathered themselves and put the image up for sale on eBay.

The one-of-a-kind X-ray, which measures 17 inches by 14 inches will be auctioned, along with a certificate of authenticity, starting Sunday, Holcomb said, with all the proceeds going to the rehabilitation center.

A T-shirt will also be put up for sale on, he admitted, embossed with the message, "In Space, No One Can Hear You Quack."

"The poor duck died, but maybe this will help other animals," Holcomb said.