Back in April, an egg barely the size of a ping-pong ball arrived at the Woodland Park Zoo from the Sacramento Zoo, where its parents were not able to incubate it.
On April 17, a feisty little Burrowing Owl chick pipped its way out of that egg. The chick, a male, was named Papú. His name, which is pronounced like paw-POO, with emphasis on the second syllable, means “Burrowing Owl” in the dialect of the Yakama tribes of eastern Washington. Little Papú, who also goes by the nickname Pippin, was at hatching barely a few inches long, covered in white downy plumage, and his eyes were not open yet.
Because Papú will be reared by his keepers, it was decided that he will become an ambassador animal at the Woodland Park Zoo. In this very important role, Papú will meet zoo guests to help build a strong connection between people and wildlife. Right away, Papú captured the hearts of the animal keepers who will feed him, raise him, train with him throughout his life, and generally just let him become his best little Owl-self.
Papú is now nearly two months old and already adult-size, although he still has some of the downy plumage of a chick. Most baby birds are the same size as their parents by the time they’re ready to leave the nest—and Papú is just at that age. Adult feathers, which are mottled brown and white, are already starting to grow in, including those all-important flight feathers.
At this point, his flights are limited to practice take-offs and soft, but not always graceful, landings on his keepers’ laps or the ground. Within another week or so, he will probably take his first real flight, and by early autumn Papú will have his adult plumage and his eyes and beak will start turning yellow.
Burrowing Owls are small, long-legged Owls found throughout open landscapes of North and South America. These tiny predators—they’re only 8 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 5 to 8 ounces when fully grown—can be found in grasslands, rangelands and throughout the Great Plains.
They nest and roost in underground burrows that might have been dug out by prairie dogs or ground squirrels, although they can create their own burrows if needed. Unlike most Owls, Burrowing Owls are active day or night hunting for beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, mice and small lizards. The Burrowing Owl is endangered in Canada and threatened in Mexico. Although still common in much of the U.S., its population numbers are in decline and they are listed as threatened in several states due to the eradication of prairie dogs and loss of habitat.
See more photos below, including several of Papú right after he hatched.