Drought forces Northland kiwi out during daylight

By Peter de Graaf -
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Kerikeri's Laura Parke snapped this photo of a kiwi wandering about in broad daylight. Photo / Laura Parke
Kerikeri's Laura Parke snapped this photo of a kiwi wandering about in broad daylight. Photo / Laura Parke

A shortage of food caused by the drought is forcing some of Northland's normally nocturnal kiwi to forage in broad daylight.

Kerikeri woman Laura Parke was walking on Purerua Peninsula, in the northern Bay of Islands, when friend Liam Davis spotted a kiwi fossicking in long grass about 1.30pm in bright sunshine.

"Then it ran across the path in front of us and the children. It would've been about 10cm from the kids' feet, then it hid under some gorse," she said.

"It was in the full heat of the day. We thought the poor little bugger must be so hot and thirsty."

Her children were still buzzing about their close kiwi encounter.

Ms Parke contacted Forest & Bird's Northland conservation advocate Dean Baigent-Mercer, who said it took extreme circumstances to persuade Northland brown kiwi to come out in daylight.

The drought made the ground so hard kiwi struggled to get their beaks into the soil, so they continued their search for food in the daytime.

In Northland kiwi lived anywhere from mountain tops to the high-tide mark but drought funnelled them into areas where they could still get their beaks into the soil. The drought also pushed predators such as cats, rats, stoats and possums into the same areas, putting kiwi at greater risk of predation.

Kiwis for Kiwi advocate Wendy Sporle, of Kaitaia, said the birds got most of their moisture from food but people who lived in high-kiwi areas could try leaving a dish of water out.

She advised people not to put out meat because kiwi would not necessarily recognise it as food but it would attract predators such as cats, stoats and dogs, putting the birds in danger.

She also urged pet owners to keep their dogs and cats contained.

Ms Sporle also advised people not to try catching or moving kiwi even if they were out during the day. They were vulnerable to injury when picked up and moving them could put them into another bird's territory or break a pair bond.

Only if a kiwi was extremely lethargic and did not run away when approached should it be picked up, put into a box and taken to DoC or the Bird Recovery Centre in Whangarei for rehydration.

While the birds were generally nocturnal there were exceptions. Kiwi chicks would sometimes come out in daylight and Stewart Island kiwi were regularly seen foraging during the day.

In the last major drought, 2009-2010, kiwi were seen in the daytime on roadsides around Rangitane and Opito Bay near Kerikeri.

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