From a parched chick at risk of dying to one that's thriving and gaining weight - life is looking up for a newborn kiwi found dehydrated in a Northland paddock.
The newborn kiwi chick was found dehydrated and disoriented in a Riponui farmer's paddock just over two weeks ago.
There was a risk the thirsty kiwi would perish - as water is vital to them - but he's now recovering well and putting on weight under the care of the team at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre in Maunu.
Named Bruce by the farming couple who found him, the chick was losing weight rapidly when taken into the Bird Centre.
Bird Centre manager Robert Webb said it's concerning that dry conditions are already having an impact on kiwi before summer has even started.
The drought of last summer caused major issues for kiwi in Northland with the normally nocturnal birds forced to forage through the day for moisture. And kiwi handlers and conservation volunteers from across the region, under the leadership of the Department of Conservation, rescued 18 dehydrated kiwi off a Hauraki Gulf island after 14 birds died due to lack of water.
"If it can't find water in the bush, a kiwi will walk into a paddock at night and rub its beak from left to right across the dew on the grass. It will then lift its head and drink the water stuck to its beak,'' Webb said.
"Sometimes they don't make it home in time when the sun comes up, so they curl up into a ball in the middle of the paddock.
"Bruce is very lucky the farmer was being observant and found him – he would have died otherwise."
Webb believes Bruce was about seven-days-old when he was found as he still had a dry patch on his body where his umbilical cord was attached.
"Most kiwi weigh around 300g when they hatch. Bruce got down to about 228g, but is starting to gain weight now – he put on 40g in one night after a feed of worms," Webb said
Once Bruce gets up to around 400g he will be released back to the Riponui farm where he was found.
"A lot of kiwi conservation work has been done in the area, particularly predator control with the use of 1080 and poison bait stations. Six or seven years ago, Bruce would have been killed by a stoat before he could make it to a paddock."
Webb said anybody who finds a kiwi during the day should contact the Department of Conservation or the team at the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre. The sooner the better.
■ The award-winning Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre has cared for and treated thousands of birds since 1992.
Centre founders Robert and Robyn Webb, who have over 30 years' experience working with native birds, manage and run the centre with the help of a small committee of volunteers.
The centre takes in all injured birds - native and non-native - and where possible nurses them back to health for release into the wild. More than 60 per cent of the birds taken into the centre are successfully released again.
A special part of the centre is the Bayer incubation unit and kiwi recovery pens, which are used to incubate eggs found in the wild and also as a recovery area for injured kiwi.
For more on the Bird Centre visit: www.nbr.org.nz.