The successful relocation of kiwi into a major forest near the heart of Whangārei city has meant 12 more birds will be released next month.

Originally 12 birds were released into the Pukenui Western Hills Forest in March last year and adapted to their environment so well two baby kiwi have successfully hatched since.

The Department of Conservation has given its backing for a series of releases of about 40 birds altogether over three years. It came after a decade of dealing to animal and plant pests in the rugged bush fringing Whangārei's inner suburbs and CBD, covering an area of about 3500ha.

The second release is being coordinated and will happen on April 6, with a powhiri and blessing for the birds to be held at Hurupaki School.

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Success for those working the Pukenui Western Hills Forest comes in fluffy bundles. This chick was released in January. Photo/Tanya Whyte
Success for those working the Pukenui Western Hills Forest comes in fluffy bundles. This chick was released in January. Photo/Tanya Whyte

Pukenui Western Hills Forest Trust chairwoman Tanya Cook said there had been lots of hard work to ensure the first release was successful and rangers Bevan Cramp and Ben Lovell had done an exceptional job, tramping through the forest tracking the birds.

She said the community had also been supportive especially when it came to keeping dogs out of the forest.

"People living around the fringes need to be aware the kiwi can wander so keeping wandering dogs out of the forest is a must. Dogs are the biggest threat to kiwi."

Cook said there were a series of community meetings prior to the next release which would update people on the current kiwi in the forest.

Ranger Bevan Cramp was busy organising the logistics of the release which included catching 12 suitable birds on the Hauraki Gulf kiwi-creche island of Motuora.

"It's awesome as this means a bigger genetic poll and more kiwis in Pukenui."

The birds will be released with transmitters which are only meant to stay on for a year.

Pukenui Forest rangers Bevan Cramp and Ben Lovell walk a kiwi chick into its new home in January. Photo/Tanya Whyte
Pukenui Forest rangers Bevan Cramp and Ben Lovell walk a kiwi chick into its new home in January. Photo/Tanya Whyte

Cramp said five of the birds in the first release had lost their transmitters and the others would have theirs removed.

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"To me that's exactly what we want, kiwi wild in their own environment."

He had worked in the forest for the last six years and said the benefits of that were starting to show through across the forest with more bird life and greater food sources for the increased bird population.

Cramp thanked "an army" of volunteers for their work and said the team continued to grow.

In January a 47-day old kiwi chick was released into the forest after hatching at the bird recovery Centre in Maunu.

Cramp and Lovell had taken the egg from under a male kiwi in Pukenui named Waimarie on November 9 last year.

Cramp said a desertion signal was detected coming from Waimarie and the rangers trekked into the bush to check.

"This signal tells us that the father sitting has either left or was about to leave the nest."

Waimarie was discovered still sitting on the egg but as a precaution the rangers took it in case it was abandoned. Monitoring of the birds showed Waimarie had been sitting on the nest for 125 days and he may have become frustrated waiting for the egg to hatch.

Cramp said they checked the egg with a torch, looking for veins, which would indicate the egg was living.

"We failed to find any veins but there didn't seem to be any discolouration or other defects on the egg so we took it to Robert Webb at the Bird Recovery Centre for a second opinion," Cramp said.

Dogs are the biggest threat to kiwi in the forest. Photo/ John Stone
Dogs are the biggest threat to kiwi in the forest. Photo/ John Stone

Webb believed it would hatch soon and the precious egg was placed in an incubator. Nineteen days later the chick started breaking free.

The first chick hatched naturally in the bush in October last year after a good effort by sitting dad Chuckles.

The public meetings are at Kara Kokopu Community Hall, February 25, 6pm; Maunu Primary School Library, March 4, 6pm; Whangarei Quarry Gardens, March 14, 5.30pm; Hurupaki Primary School Hall, March 21, 6pm.

Anyone who wants to sponsor one of the kiwi can email pukenuiranger@gmail.com for details. All proceeds will go to Pukenui Western Hills Forest Charitable Trust to protect native species.

Shortly after the first release one of the kiwi called K59 swapped native bush for a family home.

K59 wandered into the house on Ngahere Dr in Maunu, about 500m outside Pukenui Forest, about 2pm on Easter Monday. It had to cross busy Maunu Rd (SH14) to get to the home where it was caught and returned to the forest.