Although Vanity Fair has not (yet) booked an Annie Leibowitz cover shoot, Nelson has taken his first faltering steps towards a glittering media career as Germany’s next celebrity animal.
His rejection by his heartless mother Owaka and indifferent father Cook (though, to be fair, male Kea parrots, originally from New Zealand, typically take no part in rearing chicks) mirrors the twist of fate that propelled Berlin polar bear Knut to superstardom in 2007.
He has even made it to the pages of the British tabloid The Sun, which dubbed him a “Not-so pretty polly”, while the Daily Mail suggested he “could be the ugliest bird in the world.”
The Bild newspaper said on Friday that six-year-old Owaka rejected Nelson as soon as his horrific head poked out of the eggshell, even though he was the only one of three chicks in her nest to emerge alive.
“His mother Owaka wouldn’t have anything to do with him from the start,” noted the zoo’s deputy director Timm Spretke disapprovingly.
Taking up the all-important Thomas Dörflein role as Nelson’s human surrogate parent is zoo worker Petra Strecker, who has been hand-rearing the hideous creature for the past seven weeks, feeding him a homemade parrot-food paste. But according to Spretke, Nelson’s survival is still very much in the balance.
“He’s not quite out of the woods yet, because he’s not yet taking food himself,” he said.
Now keen parrot watchers are hoping he will not become a victim of his fame, like Til the earless bunny of Limbach-Oberfrohnam, who was tragically stepped on by one of the cameramen sent to launch his media career.
Reports that Nelson’s mum got wind of the tabloid media storm over Nelson’s freakish ugliness (Bild described him as “a cross between a roast chicken and an alien”) and rejected him simply to boost his celebrity career are unconfirmed.