Another rare kiwi hatches at the Columbus Zoo

Another kiwi has hatched just months after the historic first hatching at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium of this unique bird species. The latest North Island brown kiwi chick (Apteryx mantelli) hatched on June 25; the first hatched on March 23.

Only six kiwis, including the two chicks at the Columbus Zoo, have hatched in the past five years in North America. The Columbus Zoo is only the third zoo in North America to successfully hatch a kiwi chick since the first one hatched at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in 1975.

The newest chick, whose sex will be determined through DNA testing, is currently being cared for behind-the-scenes. The first chick is a male and animal care staff named him “Ariki” (ah-ree-kee), meaning first-born or chief in the species’ native New Zealand. Ariki can be seen between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Zoo’s Roadhouse nocturnal habitat. Including the chicks there are now five kiwis at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and a total of 21 kiwis in three United States zoos.

“The first hatching of a kiwi at the Columbus Zoo was a notably rare occurrence” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Dale Schmidt. “To have a second kiwi hatch, especially so soon after the first one, is further proof our animal care team’s efforts are firmly based on science and expertise.”

Kiwis are flightless birds about the size of a domestic chicken and the egg, weighing as much as 20% of the female’s body weight, is the largest egg in relation to body size of any bird. The female kiwi lays one egg at a time in the burrow occupied by the male kiwi. In the wild the male completes the average 86-day incubation process on his own.

At the Zoo eggs are checked to see if they are fertile 30-45 days after they are laid. To maximize the potential of a successful hatching a fertile egg is placed in an incubator where it is monitored for temperature and humidity and turned slightly each day. Once the chick pips the egg it takes about four days for it to completely emerge and it survives on its yolk sac for 6-12 days.

Kiwi chicks are miniature versions of the adult kiwi and are about 1/8 of the size of an adult when they hatch. They are precocial, meaning they are completely on their own after hatching, and must find food and avoid predators without assistance. Most birds locate their food through sight and have a relatively poor sense of smell. Being nocturnal, the kiwi’s senses are just the opposite and they use their long beak to forage through leaf litter sniffing out earthworms and other invertebrates, fruits and berries.

Kiwis have a high mortality rate in the wild mostly due to predation by invasive species; 50% of kiwi eggs fail to hatch, 90% of chicks do not survive to six months of age and only 5% reach adulthood. Kiwi males are sexually mature at two years of age and females are reproductive at about three years old.

The five distinct species of kiwi are only found in New Zealand and zoos outside of New Zealand only manage the North Island brown kiwi. The kiwi is the unofficial mascot of New Zealand and despite having legal protection since 1896 their numbers are declining mostly due to predation by non-native species including dogs and cats.

The Columbus Zoo’s conservation program has supported projects to protect the kiwi including supplying funds to construct predator proof fencing around reserves and fitting kiwis with transmitters to enable regular monitoring.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Information from Columbus Zoo press release)


Posted on July 13, 2011, in Pop Culture, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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