Kiwi hatches season's first chick

01:55, Nov 08 2011

One of New Zealand's oldest little spotted kiwi has become the first of the Marlborough Sounds' Long Island population to hatch an egg this season.

Known as the Kapiti Male, the kiwi is the founding father of the Long Island kiwi population which is estimated to have 45 to 50 kiwi.

Victoria University PhD student Helen Taylor, who is studying little spotted kiwi on Long Island and in Zealandia, Wellington, said it appeared the male, who is at least 30 years old, hatched his egg about October 17.

Miss Taylor spent a week on the island at the end of last month checking on the nine nesting males and collecting DNA samples.

She weighed and measured the kiwi chick, which appeared to be "all good", she said.

The Kapiti Male had been sitting on two eggs but there was no sign of what had happened to the second egg.

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"When we put the camera in the nest the [second egg] wasn't there any more so whether it hatched or not, we don't know. Potentially he has hatched two chicks but we can't say for sure," Miss Taylor said.

A camera trap had been left outside the burrow to monitor the kiwi chick's progress and capture any sign of a second chick.

Pictures from that would be collected in a few weeks when she returned to the island.

The little spotted kiwi on Long Island appeared to be working on the premise that good things come in twos, with five of the nine nesting kiwi sitting on two eggs each. "I'm not sure why that is, but it is very unusual for this species.

"They normally just produce one egg a year and there's not many records of little spotted kiwi having two eggs. It's quite unexpected," Miss Taylor said.

The Long Island kiwi had nested earlier than their Zealandia counterparts but it would be interesting to see if they followed suit and laid two eggs too, she said.

"After that we will be able to see if it's a seasonal thing or if it's specific to Long Island, and if so, why that might be."

Two of the little spotted males had abandoned their nests, leaving four eggs alone.

"It could be that the eggs were infertile and not going to hatch, or it may be an embryonic death, or if the birds were young and didn't know what to do. There's a lot of reasons why the nesting has failed. That's something we hope to establish by looking at the eggs," Miss Taylor said.

The eggs were collected and taken back to Wellington where a candling technique would be used to examine what stage of development the kiwi chicks were at.

Sounds tourism operator Cougar Line was monitoring the kiwi and collecting vital data for the research until Miss Taylor returned to the island. "I really couldn't have done this research without them," she said.

Cougar Line was monitoring the kiwi on its trips around the Queen Charlotte Sound, and tourists were given the chance to lend a hand, or ear, to the cause. "That's gone down really well," Miss Taylor said.

The Marlborough Express