Chicks born of rare romance
Matakohe-Limestone Island is celebrating a big ‘birthday' with the hatching of its 25th kiwi chick.
The island in Whangarei Harbour near Onerahi is a kiwi creche. It plays an important role in raising kiwi chicks in the pest-free environment until they are 1.2kg and able to fend off stoats.
Most of the chicks are brought to the island from sites around Whangarei but it also has two breeding pairs of kiwis.
Ranger Ben Barr says getting the kiwi to form breeding pairs on the island has been like something out of a Shortland Street episode with plenty of drama.
The first pair to come to the island were Glen and Helga in 2001 but they didn't like each other very much and never bred.
It wasn't until Darwin was released on the island that Helga found true love and the pair produced the first island-born chicks in 2004. They were named Ahi Kaa and Kahui Whetu by Te Parawhau kaumatua.
Baldrick, named because of a bald patch on her leg, was brought to the island to keep Glen company and they have been having chicks since 2005.
Unfortunately Helga died in 2006, so Darwin was shifted off the island to where he now lives at Parua Bay.
With Darwin and Helga gone there was space for another pair on the island. A bird from Purua called Sir Ed became friendly with island-born Kahui Whetu and they've been having chicks together ever since.
It was Sir Ed and Kahui Whetu who did the honours of producing the 25th island-born chick.
As the female kiwi lays such a big egg it is the male who does all the incubating. Sir Ed sat on the nest for 107 days - nearly a third of the year - only getting off for the odd worm until two chicks were hatched. Ben says the older one weighed in at 390g and the younger 280g.
"Chicks of this size are extremely vulnerable on the mainland to introduced stoats and 95 per cent will be eaten before they reach the magic weight of 1.2kg after which they can defend themselves from stoats."
A network of traps are set up on the island by the Friends of Matakohe Limestone Island, as stoats can readily swim the 500m from the mainland.
The group gets major support from Golden Bay Cement, the Whangarei District Council and Forest & Bird's Kiwis For Kiwi which help with stoat trapping on the island.
Once Sir Ed's newest chicks reach 1.2kg they will be released on the mainland under the protection of the Whangarei Heads Landcare Forum (Backyard Kiwi) or the Department of Conservation.
A naming competition is now being held for the kiwi. Go to limestone island.org.nz and enter a suggested name for a chance to win a trip to the island with three friends to release a kiwi.