A newly hatched kiwi has seen the world outside the incubator for the first after being moved to its new kiwi crèche at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre.
Centre manager Robert Webb transferred the chick, which was rescued from Kerikeri nine days ago, from the incubator where it hatched to a "brooder box" - a kind of heated kiwi crèche with space for the baby to explore.
The chick has been losing weight over the past days, which is part of the natural process when kiwis are born.
They hatch with an external yolk sac they carry on their belly, which provides nutrition for the first week.
Although born with huge feet, chicks often can't stand up at first because their yolk sacs make their bellies too big.
While the chick feeds on the sac, it loses 5 to 10 grams daily, and once the weight loss stops, the chick is ready to be transferred to the brooder box.
The kiwi will stay there for another week receiving food, then Webb will move it to a bigger box where he will introduce a patch of grass from outside.
"That's really important because when little kiwi come across the dirt, they start pecking at it having a lot of fun and getting the vitamins and minerals they require," Webb explained.
"Without that, they wouldn't survive."
Webb says they were trying to copy as much as they can from the processes happening in the wild, including the diet and the temperatures that kiwi babies grow up with.
• Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre needs funds after losing Northpower as major sponsor
• Whangārei Bird Recovery Centre full of starving native pigeons
• Robert Webb amazed at donations on Givealittle page set up for Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre
• Premium - Drunken wood pigeons detoxing at Whangārei's Native Bird Recovery Centre
The healthy kiwi – presumably a female – had hatched in Whangārei on October 5 after a Kerikeri farmer rescued two eggs from his farm.
The farmer had been cutting flax on his paddocks when an adult kiwi rushed out of the way, leaving behind two eggs.
The rangers from the Kerikeri Department of Conservation assessing the situation noticed that one of the eggs was in the process of hatching and required immediate assistance.
"We received the two eggs at about 5pm. One of them was in the process of hatching," Webb said.
"At about 9.30pm we had a fat little kiwi. She is healthy, and we put her into the incubator to keep her warm."
The second egg from Kerikeri had no living chick inside.
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 kiwi is safe."
DoC Whangārei spokesperson Abigail Monteith reminded Northlanders to be careful when out in the bush and on farms, as kiwi chicks start hatching now.
Monteith said people wouldn't normally stumble across kiwi eggs as they lay their clutch in burrows.
"What happened on Friday was an unusual situation, but there are cases where kiwi 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."
The little kiwi will remain inside for another three weeks, then it will be moved to an outside pen where it will stay until DoC decides on the safest place for it to go – either back to Kerikeri or to predator-free Limestone Island in the Whangārei Harbour.
From there the kiwi would be released into the wild when it reaches a weight of about 1.2kg, which is a size that gives juveniles a reasonable chance against predators.