Gender-bender Kiwi chick leaves nursery for great outdoors

Staff won't know for a week or two whether they're correct to be calling Mauriora a she. Photo / Supplied
Staff won't know for a week or two whether they're correct to be calling Mauriora a she. Photo / Supplied

The new white kiwi at Pukaha Mt Bruce has graduated to an outdoor enclosure - but wildlife centre staff still don't know whether to call the little bird "he" or "she".

National Wildlife Centre manager Kathy Houkamau said Mauriora's gender was yet to be determined. The bird hatched on December 18, the second white kiwi to be hatched in captivity, following the arrival of Manukura in May.

But Mrs Houkamau and other centre staff are referring to the small ball of white as "her" even after mistakenly calling older sister Manukura "him" before she was officially sexed.

Mrs Houkamau admitted staff could be falling into the same trap all over again. "They need to be a month old before we take a feather and test it. Though we're calling it she. I don't know why, when we got the last one completely wrong."

She said Mauriora graduated from the kiwi nursery and was given a feel for the outdoors for the first time on Thursday.

The chick had met all the milestones, including reaching the required weight and eating by itself.

Mauriora will be in an outdoor enclosure in the reserve with 10 other chicks hatched this season.

It meant visitors could no longer view the chick, but Manukura could still be viewed in the kiwi house every day. Thousands of visitors had seen Mauriora in the nursery during the holidays.

Mauriora is believed to be from the same parents as Manukura and staff had been "gobsmacked" by the chick's Christmas arrival. Iwi named the chick Mauriora, meaning sustained life.

Staff aren't certain of the mother, but the father is known to be common to both white kiwi, identified through his transmitter.

Department of Conservation staff have said there's only a one-in-four chance that a pair of kiwi with the rare white gene will produce a white chick, although chances were good the pair would breed again.

The chicks' parents were among 30 kiwi transferred from Hauturu/Little Barrier Island last year to boost the adult population at Pukaha. It's thought the white gene found its way on to Little Barrier after a white kiwi was put on the island early last century.

- APNZ

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