New Zealand’s Pukaha Mount Bruce received an early Christmas present when their third white Kiwi chick hatched at the national wildlife center.
North Island Brown Kiwis with white plumage are extremely rare. This chick is the third white Kiwi ever born in captivity, according to center officials. The center is the same nursery where Manukura, the first white Kiwi and Mauriora, a second white Kiwi, was hatched in December last year.
The staff knew that the eggs, which were collected from the wild, had come from Manukura’s brown-feathered father, so they knew there was a 25% possibility of another white Kiwi, but it still came as a surprise.
A small number of North Island Brown Kiwi carry the recessive white gene which both the male and female must have to produce a white chick.
All three white chicks have the same father, who has been identified through his transmitter. Though the identity of the mother can’t be told for certain, center staff assumes she is the same because of the rarity of the white gene. There is a one-in-four chance of such a pair producing a white chick.
Local Maori iwi Rangitane o Wairarapa are delighted that Pukaha Mount Bruce has been blessed a third time. “We have always known the reserve at Pukaha Mount Bruce is a very special and spiritual place, this third white Kiwi is confirmation of what we have always known,” Rangitane chief executive and Pukaha board member Jason Kerehi said. The iwi will name this special chick over the next few days.
This white Kiwi is the seventh Kiwi chick to have hatched at the centre so far this season, and many more are expected. Another egg currently incubating in the nursery is from the same nest as this white Kiwi chick, so there is a 25% chance of a fourth white chick.
Within the Pukaha Mount Bruce reserve, Kiwis live as they would in the wild, but all males are tracked with transmitters because they incubate the eggs. Any eggs laid are taken to the center for incubation. Chicks are hand-reared and returned to the forest when they are about eight months old.
There are five species of Kiwi, all native to New Zealand, and all populations are declining. To protect the wild birds, a number of conservation programs, like this one at Pukaha Mt Bruce, have been established. These shy, nocturnal, flightless birds are the national symbol of New Zealand.
Photo Credit: Pukaha Mount Bruce