It was big news when a North Island Brown Kiwi Chick hatched on Mar. 23, 2011 at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, which you can read about HERE. And now, just months after their historic first hatching of this unique bird species, a second hatched on Jun. 25. Only six Kiwis, including the two chicks at the Columbus Zoo, have hatched in the past five years in the whole of North America.
“The first hatching of a Kiwi at the Columbus Zoo was a notably rare occurrence” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “To have a second Kiwi hatch, especially so soon after the first one, is further proof our animal care team’s efforts are firmly based on science and expertise.”
The newest chick, whose sex will be determined through DNA testing, is currently being cared for behind the scenes. The first chick is a male and animal care staff named him “Ariki” (ah-ree-kee), meaning first-born or chief in the species’ native New Zealand. Including these chicks, there are now five kiwis at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a total of 21 kiwis in three United States zoos.
Photo Credit: G. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
They are precocial, meaning they are completely on their own after hatching, and must find food and avoid predators without assistance. Most birds locate their food through sight and have a relatively poor sense of smell. Being nocturnal, the Kiwi’s senses are just the opposite and they use their long beak to forage through leaf litter sniffing out earthworms and other invertebrates, fruits and berries.
Kiwis have a high mortality rate in the wild mostly due to predation by invasive species; 50% of Kiwi eggs fail to hatch, 90% of chicks do not survive to six months of age and only 5% reach adulthood. Kiwi males are sexually mature at two years of age and females are reproductive at about three years old.
The five distinct species of Kiwi are only found in New Zealand and zoos outside of New Zealand only manage the North Island Brown Kiwi. The Kiwi is the unofficial mascot of New Zealand and despite having legal protection since 1896 their numbers are declining mostly due to predation by non-native species including dogs and cats.
The Columbus Zoo’s conservation program has supported projects to protect the Kiwi including supplying funds to construct predator proof fencing around reserves and fitting kKwis with transmitters to enable regular monitoring.