Jamie Morton is the NZ Herald's science reporter.

Refuge abuzz over kiwi egg find

Northland forest directors step up pest eradication plans as monitoring reveals up to four chicks are on the way

John Robertson pats a kiwi, one of 14 adult birds at the forest, held by Kiwis for Kiwi's  Wendy Sporle. Photo / Peter Grant
John Robertson pats a kiwi, one of 14 adult birds at the forest, held by Kiwis for Kiwi's Wendy Sporle. Photo / Peter Grant

A bid to bring back kiwis to a Northland forest has delivered something to celebrate just in time for a national fundraising campaign.

For the first time in 50 years, eggs have been laid at privately owned Marunui Conservation in the Brynderwyn Hills, where 14 Northland brown kiwis were released seven months earlier.

The news has fuelled the hopes of property directors John and Catherine Hawley, who now want to widen the belt around the precious refuge.

The kiwis, raised on Motuora Island, have been monitored since arriving at the 423ha block of indigenous forest, and all birds were recaptured during July and August for health checks.

At that time, it was noted some of the birds were pairing up and establishing territories, although it was not known whether they were of breeding age.

"Our wishes were realised when, while tracking the kiwi at the beginning of September, we picked up an incubation signal from the transmitter on a male," Mrs Hawley said.

"Then two weeks ago, we were thrilled to receive a similar signal from a second bird."

Monitoring since indicated that incubation, undertaken by the male and lasting around 80 days, was proceeding in both nests.

It was likely that both fathers would be caring for two eggs, as the female usually laid a second egg three weeks after the first.

The chicks were expected to hatch in mid-November and mid-December, and the Hawleys said everything possible was being done to protect them from predators - a constant risk to the programme.

Intensive trapping was done throughout the property, and the couple have made a new funding bid to establish a "ring of steel" around neighbouring properties, widening the trapped perimeter to 1450ha.

Mrs Hawley said the births would be a milestone.

"For Marunui, it represents the culmination of years of hard work to restore and protect the habitat to a level that can provide a home for and sustain these iconic birds."

The development was yesterday described as "inspirational" by Kiwis for Kiwi executive director Michelle Impey, whose group is running the Save Kiwi Week.

The campaign, fronted by former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry, aims to raise the $100,000 needed to protect 1000 kiwis and their chicks from predators, and ultimately help reverse a population decline that has been running at a rate of 2 per cent each year.

She said research carried out last year found that only a half of New Zealanders knew numbers were dwindling, and that without action, the species could be lost forever.

People can find out how to support the cause by visiting www. kiwisforkiwi.org. A range of auctions for kiwi experiences, including two at the Brynderwyns, are also running on Trade Me. Search "Kiwis for Kiwi" under "stores".

- NZ Herald

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