On December 28, a tiny new feathered face greeted the staff at Franklin Park Zoo. The hatch of the male kiwi chick was a first for this species at the Zoo.
Since his hatch, the young chick has been strong and thriving. Staff has observed him preening his long brown feathers, and probing his beak into the ground in search of insects, both natural behaviors for kiwis. He is already eating an adult diet consisting of a mixture of vegetables, including corn, carrots and string beans, and meat.
“We are very pleased with the growth of the chick so far. With all newly hatched birds, you want to make sure that the legs are not splayed, or in an abnormal position. He has nice strong legs in a good stance and has become more active with each day,” said Dr. Brianne Phillips, Zoo New England Associate Veterinarian. “As with any new chick, we are continuing to monitor him closely, but so far he is doing well.”
The chick will eventually be a mate for Aria, a female adult kiwi at Franklin Park Zoo, although it will be about a year before they are introduced. As a participant in the Kiwi Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), it is hoped that eventually Aria and the new male will have offspring of their own.
The egg was transported to Franklin Park Zoo by Ed O’Brien, Assistant Curator of Birds World. O’Brien picked up the egg, which had already been sexed and identified as a male, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia.
“The Animal Care team has been attentively caring for this little chick, and is now weighing him twice daily to ensure that he is gaining weight and growing stronger each day. This is an incredibly exciting hatch, and as long as he continues to thrive we expect him to make his exhibit debut within a few weeks,” said O’Brien.
Because kiwis are nocturnal, great care is taken within their exhibit to shine just the right amount of light so visitors can best observe their natural behaviors. By utilizing a reverse light cycle, visitors have the unique opportunity watch these birds as they forage and explore their exhibit.
Franklin Park Zoo is the only zoo in New England, and one of 10 institutions in North America, to exhibit brown kiwis, classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Kiwis, the national symbol of New Zealand, are flightless and are about the size of a domestic chicken. The kiwi is known for laying the largest egg in proportion to its body size, generally about 20 percent of the body weight of the female. The eggs are incubated for 75 to 90 days, one of longest incubation periods of any bird species.
Chicks hatch with open eyes and the ability to feed themselves. Unlike most other birds, neither parent feeds the chick. The chick remains in the burrow for 2 to 5 days living off of the retained yolk during the hatching process. From this point on, the chicks are fully self-sufficient.
While kiwi do not have great vision they do have a keen sense of smell and hearing which they rely on for locating and consuming insects and worms, which makes up the bulk of their diet in the wild.