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Rare kiwi chicks hatch in Wellington

2011 has got off to a great start for the mainland's only little spotted kiwi (LSK) population, with researchers at ZEALANDIA this week finding the first two kiwi chicks of the new decade.

Both birds hatched on or around New Year's Eve and are already fending for themselves in the predator-free sanctuary, which is home to mainland New Zealand's only wild population of 'little spots'. In May last year, a survey showed the current population in the sanctuary to be around 100 birds, more than double the number originally released in 2000/2001.

The chicks were found by Victoria University researchers Dr Kristina Ramstad and Andrew Digby, who are studying the species.

"We've been tracking nine pairs during the breeding season as part of a study into little spotted kiwi reproductive behaviour and nesting success," said Digby.

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"We tracked males at least once or twice a week to look for signs of nesting, such as repeated use of the same burrow, and camouflaging of the burrow entrance, then used a 'burrowscope' to look inside the nest once the adults had left at night to see whether they were incubating eggs. We've also been using sound recorders and a video camera to monitor when the males are exiting and entering the nest, since these timings can help confirm incubation and can provide some indication of when hatching is due (the males usually stay on the egg longer closer to hatch)."

Additional information
• The female LSK lays a single egg averaging 15-20% of her body weight, proportionally heavier and larger than that of any other bird species!
• Once the egg is laid, the male qwill incubate it for 65-75 days. During this time, the female will recouperate
• Kiwi chicks fend for themselves almost as soon as they hatch, one reason why they are so vulnerable to mammal predation
• Little spotted kiwi are the smallest of New Zealand's six recognised kiwi taxa.
• They were originally found throughout the country but became extint on the North Island by 1875 and on the South Island by the 1980s
• The entire population numbers less than 2000 birds, with the majority living on Kapiti Island
• The ZEALANDIA population was established in 2000, with 20 birds translocated from Kapiti Island. It is still the only population on the mainland


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