Kiwi egg is keeping observers in suspense

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 14/01/2014

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It's a case of one down and one to go for staff and visitors at Pukaha Mt Bruce hoping for another white kiwi.

The Department of Conservation-run wildlife sanctuary at the bottom of the Tararua District revealed last week it was caring for two eggs from the father of Manukura, a white kiwi that has brought the centre international attention since his birth in 2011.

As the carrier of the recessive gene for white feathers, there is a chance his offspring will be white like Manukura and two other birds born at the centre since.

Centre manager Helen Tickner said one of the eggs hatched on Friday night, revealing a traditional North Island brown kiwi.

"We still have one [egg] that might produce a white kiwi for us, there's an outside chance."

It was not known who the mother of the egg was, though if it were the same bird that bred the centre's three white kiwi then there was a 25 per cent chance the bird would also be white.

"We don't know who the mother of the egg is but kiwi generally stick together," Ms Tickner said.

Seven kiwi had hatched at Mt Bruce since September and there were a further six eggs being cared for.

Ms Tickner said it had been a successful breeding season at Mt Bruce and she was always happy to see the hatching of any new kiwi, whether they were white or brown.

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.

Ms Tickner said North Island brown kiwi chicks had about a 5 per cent chance of survival in the wild. In captivity those odds increased to about 65 per cent.

After hatching, the kiwi are raised to a weight at which they're able to defend themselves from predators before being released back into the centre's 942-hectare forest reserve, which is protected by an intensive predator-trapping programme.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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