It's another dry Far North summer — so far — and once again some kiwi are doing it tough.
Kiwi Coast, which helps to co-ordinate more than 130 community-led projects so Northland's wild kiwi can roam freely, has received an increased number of reports of usually nocturnal birds being out and about during day in November and December.
Four of those reports came from Bay of Islands projects, complete with a photo and video of kiwi active in daylight. And one individual's quest for water did not have a happy outcome, the bird drowning in a trough at Whangārei Heads.
"Kiwi can swim, but not well, and they cannot climb up slippery, smooth surfaces," Backyard Kiwi spokesman Todd Hamilton said.
"It's important to keep them safe from water hazards by giving them an escape route, such as bricks in a trough, a plank in a pond, so they can climb out."
Recent reports and photos of daytime kiwi sightings in Northland have been linked to the weather, with dry, hard ground making it difficult for them to feed, which can lead them into trouble as they search for food and water.
Kiwi mainly eat insects, some of which might be found on the surface of leaf litter, but in many cases are underground, which means they have to be excavated. That's not a problem in soft, moist soil, but becomes difficult when the ground is hard, and invertebrates go deeper to keep cool and moist.
Puketotara Landcare named a kiwi seen within its project area in daylight last month Magic.
"Kiwi are nocturnal, but this lovely big kiwi was out at 2pm. That's unusual," said Kiwi Coast Mid North co-ordinator Andrew Mentor, who also co-ordinates the Puketotara Landcare Group.
"Nothing was happening to disturb it, that we know of. Dry ground can make feeding difficult for them but this one looked in good condition and soon wandered off again. We named it Magic — magic moment!"
The bill of a kiwi was designed to probe into the soil, where they could smell and feel vibrations made by their prey. Adult females had a 30 per cent longer bill than males, so could reach deeper to get at food males could not reach, but even they struggled in dry conditions.
Chicks, which were hatching now, were the hardest done by, as their bills were short, relatively soft, and they were not especially skilled at probing.
Breeding males, which by now would have been sitting on one or two eggs for more than 80 days, would probably have eaten most of the food in the vicinity of the nest, foraging for as little as three hours at night, but once free of incubating duty would be much more active, feeding for more than 12 hours throughout more of his territory.
Kiwi Coast Far North co-ordinator Lesley Baigent said that could explain why kiwi chicks often left the nest area soon after hatching, searching for food, often in unusual places.
"They have been found sleeping or wandering in the middle of paddocks during the day, where they are at risk from dogs, hawks, cats and mustelids, as well as starvation and dehydration. They have been found on people's lawns, gardens, in ponds and pools," she said.
"With increased daytime sightings of kiwi, we need to work extra hard to keep them safe from pets, ensure all possum traps are raised 750mm off the ground, and troughs have escape routes."
Anyone who sees kiwi in daylight, and is concerned, should call DoC (0800 DOC HOT) for advice, or the local Kiwi Coast co-ordinator. Injured or stressed birds can also be referred to the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre for rehydration, feeding, and then release into a safe area once they have recovered.