Rare kiwi chick could be on its way

CALEB HARRIS
Last updated 17:47 10/01/2014
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CUTE KIWI: A brand new chick at Pukaha Mount Bruce.

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An expectant "mother" is trying hard not to play favourites, but even she admits there will be extra excitement about an upcoming birth - which could happen today.

With kiwi hatching season in full swing at Pukaha Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre, anticipation is growing about the possibility of another rare white kiwi joining Manukura, the first white kiwi born in a protected environment.

Centre manager Helen Tickner said there was a one in four chance that either of two eggs incubated by Manukura's father could produce another white kiwi. The chick in one of those two eggs began breaking through his shell in the centre's nursery this morning. It is expected to emerge today or tomorrow.

Tickner said chicks could take up to three days to fully emerge, but it usually occurred within 24 hours.

She tried to downplay the possibility of another white kiwi but admitted a buzz was building around the arrival of Manukura's siblings at the centre north of Masterton.

"It actually doesn't really matter what colour it is, it's just amazing seeing people's faces when they see a real, live kiwi hatch ... but it is cool to see a white one because you know it is something really special," Tickner said.

The latest arrival in the centre's nursery, a North Island brown kiwi known as MB72, hatched on Wednesday.

Pukaha Mt Bruce chairman Bob Francis said Manukura had been a big drawcard with visitors, and another white kiwi would be a similarly "massive bonus" for the centre.

"We know who the dad is and we think we know the mum, and they're both very good breeders. But it's hard to predict, of course," Francis said.

Under its Operation Nest Egg programme, Pukaha staff members monitor eggs laid in the forest and take them into a secure nursery for incubation after about 70 days.

The kiwi that hatched on Wednesday is the 61st to hatch from eggs brought into the nursery since 2010, when 30 kiwi were brought to the reserve from Little Barrier Island. Seven kiwi eggs are in the nursery now.

After hatching the kiwi are raised to a healthy weight before being released back into the centre's 942-hectare forest reserve, protected by an intensive predator trapping programme.

Seventeen kiwi were returned to the reserve in 2013, including the centre's second white kiwi, Mauriora, in October. Unlike Manukura he became restless in the enclosed kiwi house so the decision was made to release him. A third white chick, Mapuna, was born in 2012 and is in the centre's pre-release enclosure.

Tickner said that just like anyone waiting to greet a newborn, she was keeping things in perspective.
"Is it white? I don't care, as long as it's healthy."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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