Well, this is upside down. Cagey parents have told their kids for years that storks deliver babies. But now humans have delivered a baby to a stork family, and the results are pretty adorable to behold:
It happened at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo in New York, when the staff came across an abandoned egg in their aviary in late May. After rushing it to an incubator, an examination revealed it was the fertilized egg of an inexperienced lesser adjutant stork couple, which just didn’t know what to do with the thing.
Adjutant storks, one of 19 stork species, get their name from their posture and the way they strut around like officers in the military. Unlike most of those officers, they don’t grow taller than 4 feet (though they do have impressive 7-foot wingspans). Black in back, with white tummy feathers and chest feathers, they’re now a vulnerable species thanks to habitat loss.
The WCS has been studying their breeding habits, which is why the organization knew what to do with the egg. It’s been working in Nepal to protect adjutant storks, and it has an active conservation program in Cambodia.
When the wee storklet was about to hatch, WCS staff marked the egg so they could identify it, and then climbed the ladder to a more-experienced breeding couple’s nest. There, 25 feet up in the air, they snuck the egg in alongside the family’s own egg. Presumably, mom noticed, but she was cool with becoming the first lesser adjutant stork surrogate we know, effectively turning centuries of folklore on its head.
The chick hatched June 27, and its sibling came a few days later. Kids and parents are doing fine. Bonus: Someday, when they tell at least one of their kids where chicks come from, they can say, “A human brought you to us.” And they won’t be lying.