Kiwi Chick Hatched at the Toledo Zoo
May 16, 2019
TOLEDO, Ohio —Together we can do so much. The bird department at Toledo Zoo collaborated with the North Island Brown Kiwi SSP and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to hatch a female Brown Kiwi at the Zoo’s Avian Breeding Center.
The egg was laid on January 9, 2019 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, affiliated with the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. There, animal managers used sophisticated blood-draw techniques to determine the developing embryo was a female. Staff from the Institute in Virginia drove the egg to the Toledo Zoo several weeks before the expected hatch date. The egg finished incubating at the Avian Breeding Center (ABC) and the chick hatched on March 21, 2019. The yet-to-be named chick is currently being raised off-exhibit and appears healthy. Eventually, she will receive a Maori name as a sign of respect for the indigenous people of New Zealand. This chick is the second Brown Kiwi hatched at the Zoo since 2016, joining male Kirihimete, whose name means Christmas in Maori that hatched in December of 2016.
Female Kiwi lay a large egg in relation to their size, about 20% of their body size. The incubation period can take up to 80 days and Kiwi chicks hatch looking like miniature versions of the adults: fully-feathered and able to find food independently within the first ten days. Chicks grow slowly, reaching adult size around one year of age.
Unlike other birds, Kiwi have a well-developed sense of smell, thanks to nostrils at the tip of their bills. The long bill is used to probe the ground in search of soft-bodied invertebrates. Special sensory pits on the tip of the beak help Kiwi sense prey moving underground, an especially helpful adaptation to the nocturnal species.
North Island Brown Kiwi are one of five existing Kiwi species endemic to New Zealand. Though revered in their native range, the Kiwi population faces many threats. In fact, only about half of all Kiwi eggs hatch successfully. And of the chicks that do hatch, nearly 90% die within the first six months. Brown Kiwi are considered to be in serious decline due to three main threats: introduction of mammal predators, habitat loss and human disturbance. New Zealand was free of mammals until the arrival of humans 1,000 years ago. Settlers brought with them mammalian predators such as weasels, cats, dogs and pigs that threaten Kiwi at all life stages. Overall, Kiwi populations have decreased to 70,000 birds from millions that roamed New Zealand several hundred years ago.
“Fortunately, New Zealanders take Kiwi conservation extremely seriously. With Toledo Zoo’s financial help and through extensive predator-control programs, active research, egg fostering, education initiatives and habitat protection, Kiwis for Kiwi, a charity dedicated to reversing the bird’s population decline, is helping to ensure the long-term survival of this unique bird,” said Toledo Zoo curator of birds, Chuck Cerbini.
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