updated 06/19/2009 AT 4:53 PM ET
•originally published 06/22/2009 AT 7:45 AM ET
Uh oh–did something fall off Santa’s hat? Nope, this fuzzy koosh ball is a tawny frogmouth, a nocturnal bird native to Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. Born on June 9, “Nangkita” (an aboriginal word that means “land of little frogs”) can be found at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, one of only four zoos in the nation that has successfully bred tawny frogmouths in the past six years.
Zoo curator Mark Myers, who is also the population management plan coordinator for the frogmouth species across all accredited zoos, tells PEOPLE Pets that breeding has been so rare, in part, because much of its North American population is aged, post-reproductive and often only used for exhibition purposes in zoos. Here at Woodland, however, special steps have been taken to bring little Nangkita into the world, including importing its parents, 4-year-old life-mating tawny frogmouths from Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. They also used artificial incubation for 25 days.
Since its hatching, Mom and Dad have acted remarkably like a nuclear human family–both parents pitch in, protecting and plumping up this little ball of fur regularly. “The adults are very protective of the chick. They have done an outstanding job,” says Myers. But the proud parents aren’t putting an “It’s a Girl” or “It’s a Boy” sign up just yet: male and female frogmouths look the same at this stage, so a genetic test will reveal the chick’s sex sometime later.
While Nangkita is not available for public viewing, it has no shortage of attention as it snuggles in its craft-store, grapevine-wreath nest. Adds Myers: “There has been great excitement here at the zoo about this chick’s hatching and seeing it grow and develop. Keepers are working hard to weigh the bird daily and also giving supplemental feedings to ensure acceptable weight gain. We’re all very invested in this hatchling!”
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