Kiwi Bird Encounter

The Kiwi – New Zealand’s national bird and an endangered species. There are five different species of the Kiwi, which all look like wingless chickens. However they’re quite a bit different.

With an incubation period of 80 days, that’s a lot more than a chicken’s measly 21. The male is the one who incubates, instead of the female and there is only one egg, which weighs 400 grams. Chickens can lay multiple eggs, each weighing about 50 grams. This is a pretty detrimental aspect of the Kiwi, as it prevents them from reproducing quickly, and is one of the reasons for them being an endangered species. Once the chicks are born, they weigh approximately 100 grams less than while they were in the egg. 300 grams is still a pretty heavy chick. The reason why they weigh so much is that they have marrow in their bones, just like mammals. Another amazing fact is that the female Kiwi have been observed managing pain before laying an egg, because it is so big and heavy relative to their body size. For example, they will sit in water to balance out the extra weight. We went to a zoo in Rotorua to find out more.

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The reason why I don’t have any photos of live Kiwi is because they are nocturnal animals. I did see them running around in their simulated nighttime enclosures, but it was dark, and the zoo does not let you take pictures in the breeding rooms and inside enclosures.

The Rainbow Springs zoo offers a behind the scenes tour where they take you to see the inner workings of what they do. Our guide was very knowledgeable and could answer almost all of the groups questions. If she didn’t know the answer, she asked a volunteer who was working directly with Kiwi eggs. Even though the volunteer was on the other side of soundproof glass, we managed to communicate. With a view into the rooms where the breeders work, we were able to see what was required of them to take care of the chicks. During our tour, the breeders were feeding the chicks a premixed meal. Baby Kiwi are capable of living on their own once they have hatched, but since they are born in captivity, they are hand fed in addition to the food available to them in their coops. They can sometimes be difficult with the breeders, but one major thing they don’t have to worry about is that they don’t imprint. Since the Kiwis’ parents desert the egg, they don’t have a need to imprint on anything.

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They are amazing birds, and are in a lot of danger from introduced predators like the fox and stoat, which kill the adults and chicks, respectively. There are multiple breeding programs for all five of the species of Kiwi, which are doing all they can to boost the population of these birds. In addition, there are a few ‘predator free’ islands off the coast of New Zealand, which hold recovering populations of Kiwi. We visited one of them on our trip, and it was amazing to hear dozens of different species of birds sing at once.

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