The San Francisco Zoo is getting ready to introduce a new bird "ambassador" — a spunky one-year-old kookaburra born at the zoo last February who will be available to interact with guests.
Kookaburras are native to Australia, and this one, named Koan, is of the "laughing" variety. Laughing kookaburras have a call that can sound like a human's hearty laugh, and Koan has been trained to do his on command. (The video below is an example of a laughing kookaburra's call, but that is not Koan.)
Koan is the zoo's first kookaburra ambassador since 1994, as the Chronicle reports. And kookaburra's are a popular breed of bird for doing this job, because they're cute and have lively personalities.
As Children's Zoo curator Amy Phelps tells the Chronicle, "They’re fluffy and square and stocky. They also have that sort of spunky attitude that I think is attractive to us as people."
When Koan makes his debut, kids will get to feed him, toss him a ball, and hold out an arm to have him land on them — or they can hold out a perch for him to land on if that's too scary.
And they can make the "laughing" call along with him, as Phelps tell the paper, "just like a family of kookaburras would in the forest."
Don't let the photos fool you — Koan's a small little guy, and doesn't even weigh one pound yet.
Koan's parents, Pam and Fred, have lived in the zoo's kookaburra exhibit for a while now, but they are not ambassadors.
The zoo announced Koan's birth on Facebook last year, saying this was especially exciting because it was the first kookaburra hatching at the zoo since 2006.
We are thrilled to announce the arrival of a male kookaburra chick to parents Pam and Fred! This is extremely exciting...Posted by San Francisco Zoo on Saturday, July 11, 2020
Phelps says that ambassador animals like Koan help guests to connect to the animals, and see how smart they are — Koan is being trained to do a few tricks including catch a ball.
An exact date for Koan's debut as an ambassador has not yet been set.
The zoo is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and advanced reservations and tickets are required. Reservations are timed, and the zoo is capping attendance at limited capacity to increase distancing. Masks are, of course, required.