A "fat and healthy" female kiwi has hatched at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre after a Kerikeri farmer rescued two eggs from his farm.
The farmer had been cutting flax on his paddock last Friday afternoon when an adult kiwi rushed out of the way, leaving behind two eggs.
Since one of the eggs was hatching, the Department of Conservation sent the Kerikeri man down to Robert Webb at the bird recovery centre in Whangārei to save the chicks.
"We received the two eggs at about 5pm," Webb explained. "At about 9.30pm we had a fat little kiwi. She is healthy, and we put her into the incubator to keep her warm."
Webb said the disruption of the kiwi nest might have caused trauma to the eggs, so the hatching process didn't run quite smoothly.
The baby kiwi had poked a hole into the shell with her beak but hadn't managed to break the rest of the egg open with her feet.
The membrane covering the wet baby bird inside the egg had dried around the chick and was turning into a leathery, suffocating blanket, Webb said.
With the help of the bird recovery centre manager, the bird finally hatched successfully.
"It's a difficult situation. You got to know when it's the right time to get in and help the kiwi. It's a scary thing to do," he said.
The second egg hasn't hatched yet. Webb said they had to wait a few days for the egg to settle before he can check with a lamp whether there's a healthy chick inside.
Tomorrow, Webb will transfer the hatched chick into a brooder box, a kind of crèche for little kiwis where they stay warm and start exploring their surroundings.
For the first seven days, baby kiwis feed themselves through an external yolk sac they carry on their belly after hatching.
Although born with huge feet, chicks often can't stand up at first because their yolk sacs make their bellies too big.
After about six weeks, DoC will survey the area around the wild kiwi nest in Kerikeri where both eggs were found to see if it's safe for the juvenile to return.
If there are no signs of stoats, weasels or other predators, she will be able to come back home.
Otherwise, she will be taken out to Limestone Island in the Whangārei Harbour, a predator-free area that gives juvenile birds a chance to mature safely.
They are released into the wild when they reach a weight of about 1.2kg which is a size that gives them a reasonable chance against predators.
Webb said the Kerikeri farmer who had rescued the eggs did a good job of contacting DoC straight away.
"Another two hours and the chick would have died. We're glad the fluffy little girl is safe."
DoC Whangārei spokesperson Abigail Monteith reminds Northlanders to be careful when out in the bush and on farms as kiwi chicks start hatching now.
Monteith said normally people wouldn't stumble across kiwi eggs as they lay their clutch in burrows.
"What happened on Friday was an unusual situation but there are cases where kiwis lay eggs in flax or gorse."
She said if people find a nest, however, they should ring their local DoC office for further advice.
"We'd also like to remind dog owners to obey all dog rules, especially during spring season."