OR Coast Aquarium workers act as surrogates for baby puffin aban - KPTV - FOX 12

OR Coast Aquarium workers act as surrogates for baby puffin abandoned by parents

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Stella the tufted puffin chick in an adorably awkward phase at 32 days old. (Photo: Oregon Coast Aquarium) Stella the tufted puffin chick in an adorably awkward phase at 32 days old. (Photo: Oregon Coast Aquarium)
NEWPORT, OR (KPTV) -

Workers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium acted as surrogates for a baby puffin that was abandoned by its parents.

The puffin chick, named Stella, weighed a healthy 64 grams at birth in the aquarium's Seabird Aviary on July 24.

However, by the little bird's two-day checkup, Stella was not gaining weight. Aviculturists determined the parents were not delivering fish or brooding the chick to keep it warm as puffin parents should.

Following a second day of close observation, the aviculturists intervened and brought the chick behind the scenes to be raised by hand.

"Stella is so fluffy it is a little hard to resist cuddling, but because we plan to reintegrate this puffin with the population in the Seabird Aviary, minimizing human contact is in its best interest," said CJ McCarty, Curator of Birds for the Aquarium. 

PHOTOS: Oregon Coast Aquarium's baby puffin, Stella

Interaction between aquarium workers and Stella was limited to feeding and cleaning time. Staff even made adult puffin noises as they fed the chick.

During the early days, a heat lamp kept Stella warm, and a feather duster stood in its parents' stead for snuggling.

By Stella's 31-day checkup, the chick was growing at a health rate and weighed 574 grams. The puffin is now losing its downy chick feathers on its chest and face to make way for adult feathers. A complete set of those waterproof feathers indicates the seabird is ready for water.

Aviculturists will start Stella's practice swims in small pools behind the scenes, making sure the bird is a strong swimmer before its next transition.

If Stella turns out to be a male, the bird will be assigned an identification number, as all the aquarium's birds are, and transition to the Seabird Aviary. If Stella is a female, she will be placed with another Association of Zoos & Aquariums accredited facility that has requested a female tufted puffin.

For more information, go to www.aquarium.org.

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