The first kiwi chick of the season has arrived at the world's leading kiwi hatchery in Rotorua – weeks before the season usually starts.
The eager chick kicked its way out of its shell at Rainbow Springs' National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa on the afternoon of August 30, joining just a handful of other chicks that have arrived in winter, rather than spring.
"The chick hatched so quickly that our kiwi husbandry team didn't even have time to grab our camera," Kiwi Hatchery manager Emma Bean said.
The chick weighed 370g, slightly heavier than the average 340g, and was "very vocal and strong, already trying to crouch".
It is the first hatching for Operation Nest Egg and the beginning of what is hoped will be a record 2019-20 season for the Rotorua facility, building on last season's 138 hatches.
The chick, which is yet to secure a sponsor, arrived as a large egg from Taranaki on August 22, making it just in time to hatch in safety at the National Kiwi Hatchery.
It is the third egg from sire Vlad, with its siblings having hatched last year. Both were sponsored and named by one of the hatchery's volunteers, Alison Anderson.
Vlad's latest chick will remain at the hatchery to grow big and strong for a few more weeks before being released to Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari where it will form a foundation population of birds as part of Kiwis for kiwi's Saving the Kiwi strategy.
Kiwis for kiwi executive director Michelle Impey said using Operation Nest Egg, the charity was stocking Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari, a kōhanga site for western brown kiwi.
"Here, the chick will grow, find a partner and have chicks of its own. In the future, as the maunga starts to fill, the young kiwi will be removed and released to safe places in the wild.
"This initiative can grow hundreds of kiwi each year but, to be successful, it takes many helping hands along the way.
"The staff at the National Kiwi Hatchery provide top-notch expertise at this critical step in the process," Impey said.
Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari chief executive Phil Lyons said they looked forward to welcoming this first kiwi chick of the season.
"Being part of the protection and restoration of New Zealand's national icon is a special privilege for us at Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari.
"This kiwi chick is the first of 90 we expect to release for the 2019-20 season, and its release is great timing as it will be during Save the Kiwi month in October."
Bean said there were another four eggs incubating at the National Kiwi Hatchery and more due to arrive soon.
The hatchery usually hatches about 130 chicks each year, however this season it will have the capacity to care for an extra 35 – thanks to a grant from Kiwis for kiwi, which has provided extra staff and brooder boxes.
To donate to help save kiwi, go to www.nationalkiwihatchery.org.nz. There are several donation options – from feeding a kiwi chick for a month ($35) to hatching and naming a kiwi chick ($2787).
The National Kiwi Hatchery is the world's leader in kiwi husbandry, egg incubation systems, hatching techniques and kiwi chick rearing.
It is hosted by Rainbow Springs, which is one of 14 businesses owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism.