Surprise chick a 'good sign' for kiwi

BY SALLY KIDSON
Last updated 13:00 13/07/2010
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NEW ADDITION: Department of Conservation Nelson Lakes ranger Sarah Forder with the newly discovered chick.

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Department of Conservation staff are celebrating the discovery of another kiwi chick at Lake Rotoiti.

The chick is the fifth to hatch in the wild in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project area since great spotted kiwi, or roroa, were reintroduced there six years ago.

DOC ranger Nik Joice said the seven-month-old bird was found by young kiwi bird dog Fen, who led the rangers to the bird and its parents' burrow.

"The chick was a complete surprise," Mr Joice said.

"We weren't expecting to find a chick, as we didn't think any had hatched over the last breeding season.

"Discovering chicks bred in the wild is significant, as it is a good sign a breeding great spotted kiwi population can be successfully re-established in the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project."

DOC staff were impressed with the skills two-year-old Fen was showing, he said.

On the same day that Fen located the new chick, the dog tracked down two adult kiwi that had dropped their radio transmitters. This allowed rangers to put new transmitters on the birds to continue tracking their movements.

"Fen's doing really well for such a young dog and he is obedient, which makes him very good to work with," said Mr Joice.

Three chicks were released in Nelson Lakes National Park in March under BNZ Operation Nest Egg. The eggs had been taken from Kahurangi National Park and hatched at Christchurch's Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

One of the chicks was found dead 11 days after its arrival at Rotoiti. It was thought to have died of illness, though pathology tests could not confirm the cause of death.

"It was sad to lose the chick but, importantly, it had no apparent signs of predation," Mr Joice said.

The main risk to the kiwi chicks was stoats, and the fact that none had fallen victim to stoats indicated that the trapping carried out in the park might be sufficient to protect chicks without parents, he said.

The Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project kiwi population now numbers 22. It includes 15 adults moved to the area from Kahurangi National Park, five young kiwi known to have hatched in the area, and the two BNZ Operation Nest Egg chicks.

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- The Nelson Mail

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