A third white kiwi has been hatched at the Pukaha Mount Bruce national wildlife centre. The chick hatched just prior to Department of Conservation staff arriving on Monday in the centre's kiwi nursery.
This is the same nursery where Manukura, the world's first white kiwi hatched in captivity arrived in May, creating global headlines and Mauriora, Pukaha Mount Bruce's second white kiwi was hatched in December last year.
Department of Conservation staff knew that the eggs had come from Manukura's father, so knew there was a 25 per cent possibility of another white kiwi, but it still came as a surprise.
''We did know there was the chance of another white kiwi, so of course we weren't surprised, but it is still exciting for us'', centre manager Kathy Houkamau said. ''It is rare enough that two brown kiwi carrying the rare recessive white gene mate in the first place, that they would go on to produce three white kiwi is....well, we're very blessed.''
''Depending on how much support this little white kiwi chick needs, visitors may be able to see the chick at the 12pm feeding time in the next week or two,'' Ms Houkamau said. She went on to say unfortunately Pukaha can't guarantee whether the chick will be able to be viewed as it is really up to the kiwi chick and how quickly it begins to feed itself.
A small number of North Island Brown Kiwi carry the recessive white gene which both the male and female must have to produce a white chick.
''All three white birds have the same father, who we have identified through his transmitter,'' Department of Conservation captive breeding ranger Darren Page said. ''We can't identify the mother but assume she is the same because of the rarity of the white gene.''
There is a one-in-four chance of such a pair producing a white chick.
The parents of the three white chicks were among 30 kiwi transferred from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island in 2010 to boost the adult kiwi population at Pukaha. White kiwi are known to exist on the island. The island, north of Auckland, is generally off-limits to visitors.
Local Maori iwi Rangitane o Wairarapa are delighted that Pukaha Mount Bruce has been blessed a third time.
''We have always known the reserve at Pukaha Mount Bruce is a very special and spiritual place, this third white kiwi is confirmation of what we have always known,'' Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member Jason Kerehi said. The iwi will name this special chick over the next few days.
This white kiwi is the seventh to have hatched at the centre so far this season, with plenty more season left, many more are expected. Another egg currently incubating in the nursery is from the same nest as this white kiwi chick, so technically there is a 25 per ent chance of a fourth white kiwi chick.
Manukura can be seen by visitors to Pukaha Mount Bruce in the nocturnal Kiwi House 364 days of the year along with her brown kiwi friend, Turua. Mauriora is still growing in the kiwi 'creche' with the other kiwi chicks.
- (Live Matches)