Kiwis have the rare opportunity to name a kiwi chick in a Trade Me auction raising funds for a first of its kind Stewart Island/Rakiura monitoring project.

Charity Kiwis for kiwi is running the auction to support a project tracking kiwi chicks from birth to understand more about monitoring methods, their behaviours and the threats they faced on Stewart Island/Rakiura.

Massey University PhD candidate Emma Feenstra said the Rakiura tokoeka sub-species of kiwi was unique, and little was known about it.

Unlike their mainland counterparts, Rakiura tokoeka were often awake during the day.

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A kiwi chick found at Mason Bay on Rakiura/Stewart Island this February. Photo / Emma Feenstra
A kiwi chick found at Mason Bay on Rakiura/Stewart Island this February. Photo / Emma Feenstra

"I think Rakiura is the best place to see kiwi in the wild," Feenstra said.

"Last summer I met lots of trampers who said they were seeing at least one a day. It is really special."

Popular theories about why they were awake in the day included that the soil did not have enough invertebrates for them to feed on only at night. Another idea was that the shorter nights down south in summer gave them less time to feed.

"But there is no definitive answer," Feenstra said.

While the kiwi seemed to be abundant, there was little monitoring of them or their potential predators. The Department of Conservation monitored a group of adult kiwi in two areas for two weeks, once every five years, Feenstra said.

Part of Feenstra's PhD would involve placing transmitters on about 10 kiwi chicks in two different areas, and monitoring them over six months. The name of the first kiwi would be chosen by the auction winner, and used in all monitoring work of the kiwi.

The project would begin by tracking the adults into the breeding season and quietly monitoring their incubation. When the egg hatched and the chick began to emerge from the nest they would put a small transmitter on it to monitor its survival as it grew into a juvenile.

This would give them an idea about their behaviours and threats, particularly feral cats.

"Kiwi chicks are vulnerable to cats, whereas adults are more able to fend them off. While we don't know how many feral cats there are on Rakiura, we know they are widespread.

"We have found kiwi remains in cat poo, but we don't know whether the cat killed them.

"Through this research and tracking the kiwi we hope to be able to discover that. When a kiwi dies and you can recover it, you can usually tell how it died."

With the country looking at things like Predator Free New Zealand, and Predator Free Rakiura, Feenstra said it was important to look at the impacts predators had on these kiwi.

"Even though they seem to be doing fine, we just want to confirm that."

Her overall project would investigate invasive versus non-invasive methods of monitoring kiwi, measuring the effectiveness and impacts of each on kiwi.

October was Save Kiwi Month and Kiwis for kiwi was urging all New Zealanders to join the fight to save the national icon.

All proceeds from the auction would go directly towards this study, for the purchase of transmitters, tracking equipment and ongoing monitoring.