Courtesy Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium
Adorable baby animals are what the internet is for, right? Feast your eyes on this tiny fluffball, a horned puffin chick who just so happens to be the newest resident of Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
The chick was born last month — the first puffin born at the zoo — and just passed its "well-chick" exam from a staff veterinarian. The 3.7-ounce chick's gender will remain a mystery until it's old enough for a blood test. (In a twist totally mind-boggling to human parents, Woodland Park Zoo's snow leopard cub turned out to be a boy, not a girl, at 1 month old. Awkward.)
Zoo visitors may be able to catch glimpses of the chick in its nest box in the Rocky Shores habitat, but its parents are on view busily performing universal parental tasks: feeding the chick and guarding the nest box. In a few more weeks the chick will be old enough to venture out. As it grows, it will begin to develop characteristic puffin features: a black-and-white body, orange feet and a distinctive yellowish-orange beak with a red tip.
Point Defiance zookeepers give a talk about horned puffins, tufted puffins and common murres daily at noon. Stay tuned to the zoo's website for a possible puffin chick debut event once the little fluffball is big enough to join its family on exhibit.
Puffins live in the wild along the coasts of Japan, Russia, British Columbia and Alaska, and they spend winters as far south as the coast of Washington state. Like many sea birds, they face a variety of threats in the wild, both natural, such as predators, and human-made, such as oil spills, plastic pollution, overfishing and entanglement in fishing nets.