It looks like a bumper season for kiwi in the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary! The season started unusually early after a wet summer and autumn softened the ground and made feeding easy.
Lots of food around means kiwi reached peak condition earlier than usual. This allows the females to produce their huge eggs and the males to be at peak weight before embarking on an almost three-month job of incubating the eggs.
Most of these nests will hatch naturally, but some will get a helping hand through the BNZ Operation Nest Egg programme.
Five eggs were collected for BNZ Operation Nest Egg last Wednesday (10 August 2011). These came from three nests, two with two eggs each and a single egg from one nest. All these eggs were fertile and are expected to hatch successfully.
“It is great to have a high percentage of fertile eggs, as it is not unusual for some kiwi eggs to be infertile, or to perish due to bacteria,” says kiwi ranger Paul Cornille.
The nests all come from the Purua-Riponui area of the Whangarei Kiwi Sanctuary, north west of Whangarei and are being incubated at Auckland Zoo.
After hatching at Auckland Zoo these kiwi chicks will go to predator-free Motuora Island (near Kawau Island). In the absence of predators, most of these chicks will survive. When they reach 1200 g they are able to defend themselves against all predators except dogs and ferrets, so can be released on the mainland.
Kiwi populations in Northland should be thriving. The unique Northland brown kiwi lays more eggs per year than other kiwi, and can start breeding at 3-4 years. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of Northland kiwi is only 14 years, compared to 45-60 years elsewhere. This is due to dogs.
“It should be easy for people to protect kiwi from dogs, because if kiwi and dogs don’t meet, dogs can’t be a threat. We ask that people keep their dogs under control and out of kiwi areas at all times, so that we can keep our taonga in Northland forever,” explains Mr Cornille.