The first kiwi of the season has hatched at Rainbow Springs' Kiwi Encounter in Rotorua - marking "the start of a great new era" for New Zealand's largest kiwi hatching facility.
The special arrival hatched by itself in the early hours of September 7, weighing a healthy 324 grams.
It's the first hatching for Operation Nest Egg, and the beginning of what is hoped will be a record season for the facility, building on last season's 126 hatches.
Kiwi Encounter's Kiwi Husbandry Manager, Emma Bean, said the new chick was "bright, alert, and curious - a perfect bill of health."
"We are really excited. Even after more than 1660 hatches it's still so cool to come to work and see a new arrival overnight, especially one so healthy and happy," she said.
The chick arrived on August 23, 63 days into its incubation period, and completed its final 15 days of development in incubation with Kiwi Encounter.
It's the eighth egg lifted from the male father kiwi, Tatua, from Maungataniwha Native Forest in northern Hawke's Bay.
"The chick will stay with us for three or four weeks, before being transferred to a creche facility, which is a fenced off area of forest, where it will grow up to a 1kg weight," Ms Bean said.
"After that it will be released back to Maungataniwha where it came from."
The kiwi team will take a feather sample which will be sent away for testing to determine whether the chick is a male or female kiwi.
Meanwhile, Kiwi Encounter is holding a naming competition for the chick on Rainbow Springs' Facebook page.
Another 11 eggs are currently in incubation at Kiwi Encounter - with a dozen more arriving next week, and many more on their way.
Kiwi Encounter is the largest hatchery in New Zealand for brown kiwi since it first began in 1995. It has hatched and nurtured 1662 eggs and this season hopes to welcome its 1750th kiwi chick. It's on a mission to increase sponsorship this season to support more equipment and make room for more eggs.
"At capacity, our current facility allows us to hatch 120-130 eggs. But we're being asked to incubate more eggs than ever before," said Ms Bean.
"With more funding and equipment, we hope to eventually be able to double the number of eggs we can hatch."
The facility's main sponsor, Ngai Tahu Tourism, has saved the facility about $5m to date by subsidising the cost of hatching kiwi.
Visit www.rainbowsprings.co.nz/kiwi-conservation for more information on Kiwi Encounter and Operation Nest Egg.