She may just be among the hottest chicks in New Zealand right now. She features on a popular 24-hour YouTube channel, her photo is regularly in the media, and she has adoring fans all around the world.
And, while most of us are locked down or restricted in our movements, she’s about to head off on a four-year international adventure.
What’s her name? Well, actually, we can’t answer that – yet. But she is a royal.
Young chick is genuine New Zealand royalty
The young lady in question is a Northern Royal Albatross chick who lives at remote Pukekura/Taiaroa Head on the southeast tip of New Zealand’s South Island.
Since she was born to her 25-year-old mum and 21-year-old dad at the end of January, she has become something of an international celebrity.
Thanks to a so-called ‘Royal Cam’ 24-hour live stream camera set up a few years back by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC), bird-lovers around the world have been able to follow every peck and tweet of the young chick’s life with mum and dad via YouTube.
There’s even been a soap opera drama
So far, Royal Cam has attracted 1.6-million views from 51 countries.
There has even been a soap opera element to the story when dad went missing for about a month. Fans were deeply concerned at his whereabouts, but fortunately he returned with only a slight injury and was able to resume his chick-feeding duties.
“[YouTube viewers] have watched this feisty chick around the clock as she’s been cared for by her devoted parents and grown from a round fluffball to a 9kg gangly adolescent,” Department of Conservation (DOC) biodiversity ranger, Sharyn Broni, told the Guardian Australia newspaper.
Soon it will be time to spread her wings
Soon, though, she will flap out of view a she flies off to South America on her own rite of passage.
According to Guardian Australia, she will then spend her time flying around the Southern Ocean before returning home to breed in the Southern Hemisphere’s only mainland albatross colony.
Generations of young Kiwis have headed off overseas on their post-school or post-uni right of passage, so this is surely much the same.
She needs a name before she sets off
There is one problem, though. As yet, the fluffy young feathered lass has no name.
So the DOC, along with Cornell Lab of Ornithology from the famed Cornell University in New York which is collaborating on the albatross project, has created a worldwide competition to give the bird a name.
“This year’s competition will be different from what has been done in past seasons. This is partly due to the impact of COVID-19, but also because of our new audience that has joined us this season through our partnership with Cornell Lab of Ornithology,” says the DOC on its website.
“This means the competition is open to everyone, not just New Zealanders.”
Theme of the competition is ‘Celebrating Connection’
This year’s competition theme is ‘Celebrating Connection’.
“Royal Cam has brought connection to people all around the world, uniting and connecting us together and with nature and conservation,” the DOC says.
“Many of our audience has [been] and still is impacted by COVID-19, isolated from others and from nature. Celebrating Connection is a theme centred around unity and connecting with each other and nature through tough times.”
This year’s competition closes on Sunday 2 August at 11:59 pm (New Zealand time). Only one submission is allowed per person, so be sure to make it a good one. To enter, go to https://www.doc.govt.nz/nature/native-animals/birds/birds-a-z/albatrosses/royal-albatross-toroa/royal-cam/name-the-chick-competition/