A heat-buster in the weather is needed to end beak-buster conditions endangering kiwi in the Bay of Islands.

Residents are being urged to leave a bowl of water out to help parched kiwi survive.

There are fears kiwi are going hungry and could also put themselves in danger of drowning as they try to access water in steep-sided pools as the big dry continues.

Kiwi get most of their intake of liquids from their food but the extended dry weather has hardened the ground so much it is difficult for them to probe with their beaks.

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Locals in the particularly dry Bay of Islands district are being asked to help the burgeoning wild kiwi population cope with the effects of the long dry spell.

Leaving bowls of water out and hosing areas of ground to soften it could be life savers for the birds used to digging for worms, grubs and meaty insects.

Naturally nocturnal kiwi have been seen searching for food in the daytime, which leaves them more vulnerable to dangers such as cars, dogs and even curious humans.

This kiwi was found injured near Matapouri Rd in December 2017 after a close encounter with a car.
This kiwi was found injured near Matapouri Rd in December 2017 after a close encounter with a car.

The Department of Conservation suspects the drought-like conditions are impacting the birds' abilities to forage for food.

The bills of kiwi chicks are softer than those of adults, meaning the dry conditions are especially hard on the young.

While people may be tempted to leave food out, DoC is asking them not to. Kiwi might not recognise meat, for example, as food, and it would likely attract predators such as cats, stoats and dogs, which puts the birds in danger.

"Our advice to the public is to observe the kiwi from a distance,'' biodiversity ranger Cinzia Vestena said.

"Kiwi get most of their moisture from food but people who live in high-kiwi areas could try leaving a dish of water out or water patches of ground to create damp areas for the kiwi to feed. Dogs should be tied up at all times.''

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Vestena said the last time there was a long, dry spell some kiwi drowned - they were found in swimming pools, fish ponds and troughs.

''Kiwi can swim short distances but cannot climb slippery smooth sides. An easy way to fix this is to add a plank or some bricks or rocks to low pools or troughs so kiwi can clamber out again.''

People should not try catching or moving kiwi as they are easily injured when picked up and moving them could put them into another bird's territory or break a pair's bond.

People should only pick one up if it seems extremely lethargic and doesn't run away when approached, especially if it is a young bird, Vestena said.

Sightings of kiwi in distress should be reported to DoC on 0800 DOC HOT.


* Kiwi have existed in New Zealand for millions of years. Extensive Kiwi populations once roamed over all of New Zealand, but loss of habitat and the spread of predators has seen this picture change dramatically.

The decline has accelerated in the last 30 years: today, the number of Kiwi in unmanaged areas is halving every 10 years. If this rate continues, Kiwi will be extinct on the mainland in our lifetime. There are five different species of Kiwi in New Zealand, all of which are considered endangered or critically endangered.

In Northland, Brown Kiwi were found in most forests and shrubland areas prior to 1970 from the Brynderwyns to Awanui. However, their population decline has been rapid. They have disappeared from many Northland areas and exist now only in a number of small concentrations, but conservation efforts are trying to turn around the decline.