One is bossy, the other outgoing and fearless and they both hold a special place in the hearts of Kiwi North staff who will bid farewell to their resident kiwi this week.
Raukura and Zephyr have resided at Kiwi North for almost two years serving as both educational and entertainment advocacy birds for visitors. But, around the age of 2 is when kiwi in captivity start to breed so the pair are off to join a breeding programme in Rotorua.
"These two have great genetic diversity so it's really important to get offspring from these two so a breeding programme helps make this successful," explained Kiwi North husbandry team co-ordinator Bree-Anna Brockelsby.
Around every two years, Kiwi North rotate two kiwi when they are at breeding age. Two seven-month-old kiwi – slightly older than usual new additions – will arrive next Monday after Raukura and Zephyr's Friday departure. During this time, the enclosure will undergo a thorough cleanse to rid any evidence of the former residents to help the newbies settle in.
"Kiwi are smelly and territorial, they drop their feathers and go to the bathroom everywhere to mark their territory. In the wild, it's normal for only two birds to live in a territory. Because we want our new birds to be as calm and settled as possible, we have the big job of getting rid of all smells of the last two," said Brockelsby.
"We normally do this in one day so having four days will mean we can do some work in the enclosures."
Work will include changing lights to LEDS, getting camera wiring upgraded, digging the soil and removing any soil that the previous kiwi spent a lot of time on, such as the burrows. Nest boxes will be cleaned, windows scrubbed and aircon systems cleaned. In addition, there will be replanting of trees, replacement of logs and leaf litter and cleaning the pond.
"It's a big job and it's the best time to get all this work done."
Because the two new kiwi are slightly older, they will be separated with a fence while adapting to each other. Then, explained Brockelsby, leaf litter will be moved from one side of the fence to the other so each kiwi can get used to the other's smells, before swapping the birds over so they can accept that it's the territory of both.
"This helps them get along better and avoid fights."
She said it was unknown at this stage the personalities of the new additions, but staff were looking forward to finding out after they "fly" in from Christchurch and Napier.
"All kiwi have very different personalities so when they settle down, we will start to see what they are like. It will just make it all more exciting when we meet them."
Meanwhile, Raukura and Zephyr, who hailed from Auckland Zoo and Napier respectively, had developed into strong and diverse personalities with Raukura an outgoing bird with no fear and Zephyr a bossy girl, forever on the move.
Explained Brocklesby: "We spend a lot of time with these birds, someone is always here, even on Christmas Day. Part of our job is to observe their behaviours to make sure that they are okay and also to learn more about kiwi behaviours. We see a lot!
"Our female (Zephyr) is bossy. Our poor boy (Raukura) tries to have a sleep in the burrow and, almost every time, she will barge into the burrow, give him a kick and then stand in the entrance so he can't leave. She does this until he grooms her and when she's done, leaves. The poor boy only grooms himself and never gets any help from her. Our male is also a real character; he's very laid back, not bothered by us humans. He only cares that we deliver his food and that it's on time or we get a loud kick on the door if we are late."
Raukura and Zephyr will be going on a "Great Kiwi Roadtrip" with Brocklesby to their new home in Te Puia in Rotorua as part of the captive kiwi programme. There, they will be kept together in outdoor pens as a breeding pair.
Said Brocklesby: "They do get along well. We find them snuggled up a lot but they do fight a little but what couple doesn't? We think these two will breed but it can happen that they will reject each other. If this happens, they will be re-paired. These two interact with each other a lot so I definitely think that they have a special bond. Kiwi do mate for life – around 20 years – so they do need to make the right decision when it comes to breeding and who their mate is."
She said that, in the wild, breeding usually begins between the ages of 3 and 4 but captive animals often start earlier from the age of 2.
"Our two are showing displays of calling as well as behaviours such as our male chasing our female showing that they are interested in breeding but we find that they won't until in a breeding facility."
Kiwi North will remain open during the changeover, albeit at half-price entry. The new arrivals – a male and female – are yet to be named with potential plans to involve the community, along with an official welcome.
Brockelsby said Kiwi North act as "guardians" of the kiwi and look after them until they are able to breed and defend themselves against predators in the wild. They are then either released into predator-free areas or into breeding programmes.
Raukura and Zephyr had been "fabulous advocacy birds" and would be missed. However, the team were looking forward to meeting their new charges.
"These guys hold a really special place in the Kiwi North team's heart and it's always a sad, but exciting, moment when they leave us."