On the weekend of July 29, the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute celebrated the hatching of an adorable brown kiwi—a squat, ovoid bird native to New Zealand’s North Island.
Based in Front Royal, Virginia, the Institute aims to protect and propagate endangered animals like this little gal from all corners of the globe.
With the aid of her long bill, the baby clumsily extricated herself from her egg following an incubation period of 75 days. Bird junkies flocked to Facebook in the final week to peer at the embryo through the illuminated shell, commenting excitedly on the tiny kiwi-to-be.
Having made her debut, the soft-feathered bundle of fluff stayed put for an additional day before being transferred to a smaller hatchling-friendly enclosure.
While the charmingly proportioned kiwi has won the hearts of animal enthusiasts (it seems like only yesterday that Dony Permedi’s viral kiwi animation brought the Internet to tears), the flightless bird’s cultural cachet is greatest in its New Zealand homeland, where it is a source of untold national pride.
The indigenous Maori people consider the creature a taonga, or prized treasure, and the bird’s overwhelming popularity long ago led to the widespread adoption of its name as an amusing alternative to “New Zealander.”
Given this, it’s especially sad to note that kiwi populations have been steadily declining across the decades, owing to such factors as predation by dogs and habitat destruction by human land developers.
The work of facilities like the Conservation Biology Institute—which has hatched half a dozen kiwi eggs in the past five years—is instrumental in stemming the tide of their decline and that of other endangered species, some of whom just happen to be cute as a button.