DCSIMG

Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo

Search

Shop

Kiwi Updates

January 27, 2014

My goodness I had not realized how long it’s been since I have done an update! Times does fly by (and yes the pun is intended).

When we last informed you of the doings of Nessus and Maori was that we lost our egg last year. I thought up until mid-June that Nessus was re-cycling, finally we asked the veterinary staff to x-ray her to see if we could see an egg or was she just very fat! Well as you can guess she was just very overweight. Putting kiwi on a diet is not hard when they are by themselves but not when you have two! Imagine you had two dogs or cats at home and your vet told you one had to lose weight, now you can begin to realize our problem.

Fortunately our breeding pen for kiwi has a dividing fence in it so we just separated the birds but they could still have visual, hearing and of course smell contact with each other. Just like when we diet you want a slow but steady decrease, so up until mid-November they were kept separated. Nessus started out at 4.1 kilograms (about 9 pounds) and when we put them back together she is now down to 3.1 kilograms (7 pounds). Of course like most of us on diets she was not a very happy camper but both birds are very happy to be back together.

Being that overweight there is no way she could produce an egg and would have been dangerous for her to try. The good news is that on Christmas day she laid an egg, the bad news is that embryo died probably at about 14-16 days old though Maori was his usual wonderful self at being a dad. We are all disappointed but its still early enough in the season (especially since they started later this season) that we should get another egg or two. If her mood is anything to go by I would hazard a guess that she is cycling now.

Koa and Pip have both been doing Ambassador’s duty here, though Koa is pulling most the shifts. I am so pleased with his attitude, he is different from Manaia but he is doing his job very well. One of the biggest differences is that when Manaia had enough, he would just go to sleep but Koa starts jumping! We still have to keep a close eye on him so when he says enough we put him back.

Koa will now hand feed earthworms and that is new, for those who haven’t followed along thru the years, Koa was the “independent” kiwi who never wanted to take any kind of food item from our hands so this is a big step. He also now really enjoys his head scratches. We now have 4 keepers who can work with him for the demos and that too was a huge step. We still haven’t opened the doors to children under the age of 6 yet but I hope in the future we can be more accommodating. Pip on the other hand is starting to grow up!

He will still hand feed and loves his head scratches but I have noticed he is not as tolerant as he used to be. A few times he has stood up and stamped his feet (always a warning sign in kiwi) and has hissed a couple of times, so Pip may be destined for breeding down the line, time will tell.

Toru just celebrated his 39th birthday this year on January 22nd. He is a very typical male kiwi, during certain times of the year Toru takes to ambushing the keeper. Kiwi can be very quiet when they choose. Since we clean his enclosure on the “twilight” cycle the lighting is quite dim. He hides behind a log or greenery and while your back is turned (typically) he comes charging out. I can tell you that will wake you up in the morning! I thought it would be appropriate to share Toru’s chick photos, a blast from the past! When he hatched he made the front page of the Washington Star with the headlines Pee Wee Kiwi hatches at the National Zoo.

Toru one month old

Toru as an adult

This year is our 25th year of doing Meet A Kiwi here at the Smithsonian National Zoo. I can hardly believe it! Over the years we have met thousands of folks from all over the world who came to meet these special birds up close. This is the only place outside of New Zealand that you can get up this close to a kiwi, and even in New Zealand these types of programs are rare (though that is slowing changing).

I am very proud of the way our program has grown over the years and I have loved every moment of sharing these wonderful birds with all sorts of people. It’s a highlight of my day when I meet someone who has come to the zoo primarily to meet our kiwi, it’s awesome!! I want to thank all of you who have come in the past and looking forward to meeting new kiwi friends in the years to come. Whakawhetai ki a koutou!

June 20, 2013

Kia Ora, where does the time fly? So let's get right down to it. So far, we don’t have any kiwi chicks from Nessus and Maori this season. We did have a fertile egg but it died. Kiwi have a natural 50 percent egg failure rate. but it is still disappointing. The good news is that Nessus is either getting chubby or getting ready to lay a late-season egg! Time will tell.

I can tell you that she is extremely grumpy, so we all try to placate her which is not easy. Earlier this year I made the mistake of trying to check on the pair fairly early in the morning (still somewhat dark) when Maori was in a box and Nessus wasn't in any of the three boxes. The last box I checked was one the in the shed (where they typically incubate their eggs). As I was turning around to leave the shed, Nessus charged up to the door and wasn't in the mood to let me leave! She followed me all the way to the exit, kicking me and hissing. I had to reach down and gently nudge her back so I could leave. That cured me of checking on them before the sun is up! As both Maori and I both know, Nessus is known as "she who must be obeyed".

Koa has come a long way in performing his ambassadorial duties. A year ago, I wouldn't have believed how well he has done. Now he actually lets me scratch his head, and most days he lasts longer than the usual 15 minutes for the kiwi demo. We have lowered the age of children to six and older, but still try to keep the number of folks to about 15. Though a couple of times we have allowed 20 folks in. Koa does depend on his keeper, so as long as he knows his handler he is generally calm, completely different from Manaia who was very laid back and went along for the ride so to speak. He still has some days (rarely) that after about 10 minutes he has had enough, but overall he is doing a fantastic job.

Pip has decided he doesn't really like the demo box. After eating all the worms he can cram down in a few minutes he wants out! He starts jumping up and down (you can almost hear him yelling “Let me out!”). He has done several kiwi meet-and–greets, and he will eat food from anyone but is somewhat shy. He really likes to snuggle up, so we are keeping the groups very small and no small children at this point. He just turned a year old, so time will tell if he decides whether he will continue on or if going into a breeding program will be his destiny. Right now we just enjoying his being a teenager.

Omana has left us to go to the Berlin Zoo in March. She went through international quarantine very well. I was concerned, as she seemed so docile. But she was eating right away. Omana is already living with her new mate (though it will be at least a year or two before they breed). Though they have two boxes for sleeping they are found most often than not sleeping together. Berlin Zoo has sent us a picture of Omana and Manu (which means “bird” in Maori). This is also a picture of her new outside enclosure. Omana is on the right and Manu on the left, she does have some growing to do but the Berlin Staff is thrilled with our gentle girl.

Omana and Manu
Kiwi enclosure

Toru our on-exhibit bird continues to do well. This year he turned 38 years old, and is feisty as ever. Lately he has taken to hiding behind some plants and waiting to sneak up on the keepers as they are cleaning and giving them a good scare. It keeps us on our toes!

Out at SCBI Front Royal, the kiwi chick that they hatched out from the Columbus Zoo's pair turned out to be a girl. Her name is Manawa Ora (which means “hope and breath of life.”) She continues to thrive, for which we are all pleased. Her mother Gruen died after a long illness a few months ago. Columbus Zoo gave Gruen superb health care but unfortunately she succumbed. We believe that somehow Gruen got something up her nares last fall, and they had treated her for months. They even had CT scan done on her. They finally performed surgery which she handled well, but died soon after. All I can say is that Gruen received the best medical care possible, but bill injuries are the worst for kiwi and always spell trouble. I will always be grateful to Columbus Zoo for their generous support of the kiwi program and their willingness to send out kiwi eggs to other zoos.

This coming fall is when I will do another Kiwi Breeding and Transfer Plan for the North American and European zoos. I do not expect major changes in our zoo or SCBI, but I won’t know for sure until I plug in the "numbers" into the management program (this is a great program that calculates genetic matches for us). One of the great benefits of this program it allows us to see into the future." By putting together different birds and projecting offspring (we hope) we can take a look at what the future population genetics will look like. But of course you can make all the "dates" you want, but other considerations always come into play. Not least of all are the kiwi themselves, who do not always read the plan and play along with it!

February 12, 2013

Gosh, it has been too long since I have updated all you of kiwi fans! My only excuse is that time seems to have sped right by and have been busy. So let’s get right to it, First off the entire kiwi population, both here at the Zoo and at SCBI Front Ronal, is doing very well.

The Meet a Kiwi program with Koa as the upcoming star has been running since September. I am so pleased with how Koa is doing! We started with small groups and no children under the age of 12 for the first few months, but he has done so well we are now doing larger groups and dropped the age to over six. I hope by summer, we will have no age restrictions but we will judge that on Koa handles the new larger groups. I am very pleased with how Koa is doing! He is now staying over 1.1 kilograms and seems to be enjoying his time in the viewing box (as long as he gets worms, and a few head rubs doesn’t go wrong either). So if any of you are in the neighborhood please stop and say hello to Koa!

Pip’s training is coming along and he has done some of the Meet a Kiwi days when we have had only a couple of folks show (usually due to bad weather), but he has a much shorter attention span. Pip still enjoys a few hand feedings in the morning and head rubs. It’s hard to believe he is fast approaching a year old!

His older sister Omana will soon be leaving for her new home at the Berlin Zoo. An international shipment is not only filled with a lot of paperwork and vet exams, but it’s also working out the shipping crates, and the best way to fly! Since there are no direct flights from the DC area to Berlin, she will first make her way to New York City and then fly directly to Berlin. The Berlin folks are very excited to welcome Omana to their kiwi family where there is a male there waiting for her to grow up. Speaking of growing up, I heard from the zoo that has Hiri and she is doing very well and fast approaching maturity. From what the zookeepers said it sounds like Hiri is a lot like her mom, meaning she is pretty dominant; good for her!

We hope our Zoo family is about to grow, as Maori is sitting on an egg, which we will  check at the end of this month. Fingers crossed that we will be having another kiwi chick around springtime!

SCBI Front Royal is also getting busy! They welcomed another kiwi egg from the Columbus Zoo in January and hatched at 68 days (earliest for a Columbus egg: the previous eggs have all been around 78 days incubation). I don’t know the sex yet, but this one is a real cutie and very active.

The young male that hatched out at SCBI Front Royal last year, named Pokey (that was the first thing they saw was his bill poking out of the shell and the name stuck), will be heading to the Netherlands this spring for future pairing with a female already at the zoo. Pokey has quite the feisty temperament and will be a match for any female!

Our whole kiwi family has grown with another new zoo coming on board. The Toledo Zoo in Ohio also took a kiwi egg from the Columbus Zoo around the holidays and hatched a kiwi on January 11! It’s a girl. They are working on a naming this new addition and the staff there are all very excited about working with kiwi. This female will be staying there and in the future she will be joined by a male that will suitable for her to breed with. Welcome aboard Toledo Zoo!

This past September also saw the Zoo’s director, Dennis Kelly at the Auckland Zoo to present the kiwi feathers that were collected from all the kiwi zoos outside of New Zealand. This was the second installment of feathers back to New Zealand. The first one in 2011 was a lower-key event and was a dress rehearsal to ensure that all the protocols were in place. This will happen every year as way to give back to New Zealand. The feathers are considered a Taonga (treasure) and thereby sacred. The feathers will used by traditional Maori weavers to repair kiwi feather cloaks or in new projects. The project has been a huge success and I can never thank all the folks who helped make this possible, not the least of them are all the keepers who pick up all those small delicate feathers!

On an ending note, I would like to express my gratitude (and frankly surprise) by the honor the government of New Zealand awarded me this past New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day (and the Queen’s Birthday) the government hands out honors to various people they feel have contributed to the welfare of their country. I was included this past New Year’s Day honors list by receiving a Honorary Member of the Order of Merit. I feel deeply privileged and frankly still a bit stunned by this inclusion. All I wanted to do was to help out kiwi both here and everywhere; this award was something I never expected even in my wildest dreams. So, thank you New Zealand! I hope to continue my work that will both honor this and kiwi.

October 18, 2012

Feathers are quite the fashion asset, especially if you’re an endangered bird like the kiwi. On October 12, 2012 Smithsonian’s National Zoo director Dennis Kelly repatriated the Zoo’s kiwi feathers to the embassy of New Zealand in a Maori ceremony. Watch the ceremony below:

New Zealand Embassy and Smithsonian National Zoo Handover Ceremony To Return Kiwi Feathers To New Zealand.

Kiwi feathers are a critical component in constructing traditional Maori feather cloaks. The ceremonial cloaks made out of the soft brown kiwi feathers are highly prized. Each cloak is given a name and passed down for generations. As one of the leading kiwi conservation programs, we were eager to donate the molting feathers of our kiwis. Kathy Brader, the Zoo’s lead kiwi keeper, explained the cultural importance of the kiwi, saying “This is a way of immortalizing our birds. It offers a means of involving them directly in conservation and cultural recovery efforts, and it takes very little work on everyone’s part. It’s a classic win-win situation.”

Working closely with the New Zealand Embassy and New Zealand Conservation Department of Conservation, we strive to maintain and conserve the well-being of the world’s kiwi population. Along with keeping the world studbook of more than 53 kiwis in 13 institutions worldwide, Brader oversees all kiwi breeding outside of New Zealand. Under her care and instruction, the National Zoo has hatched seven kiwi chicks—four males and three females.

The National Zoo and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are also pioneering revolutionary methods in kiwi husbandry. In development with the onsite breeding at the National Zoo, the Smithsonian opened the Kiwi Science Center at SCBI in Front Royal, Virginia. The new state-of-the-art building has specially designed pens and habitats for six pairs of kiwi.

Thanks to Brader’s extensive work, the international kiwi program has grown immensely. Conservation efforts continue with the Zoo and SCBI’s new breeding science program for kiwis. This program will focus on studying the behavior and boosting the population using advances in reproductive technologies.

Our efforts to save these rare birds were recently recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For her commitment to brown kiwi breeding and management in North America, Brader won the 2012 Plume Award from the Avian Scientific Advisory for Exceptional Individual Achievement in Avian Husbandry.. As our studies continue, we hope to become the first to pioneer artificial insemination methods in kiwi and to further increase genetic diversity in human care.

July 22, 2012

I must apologize for the lateness in writing this kiwi update; my only excuse is that this will probably be the hardest one I have ever had to write. Many of you know that our beloved Kiwi Ambassador Manaia passed away suddenly on May 26, 2012. There were no clear signs of Manaia having a problem, except that he did seem a bit slower the week before. But he was eating and doing his regular duties as our kiwi ambassador. We are still waiting for the final pathology reports, but initially he was in very good condition but showed some sign of having some mild congestion in the lungs and mild edema around the heart. He did appear to be slightly more congested the last week before he died. Our weather had been quite hot and humid which is not the kiwi’s best weather, and with his old injury to his bill it may have affected his breathing more then we realized.

That said, Manaia’s death has been like the lost of a close and faithful friend to me. I will never forget the day he hatched, February 13, 2006. Some of you may not be aware of his fast and furious entry into the world, which gave us all of us here heart strain for a bit. Kiwi typically hatch after an incubation period of 68 (being early) up to 90 days, usually you see them hatch around day 78 to85. Not Manaia; he always did everything in his own and special way. I was off work for a few days and as it was in the very early 60s of the day count. After candling the egg, I was sure we were fine until I returned to work on day 64. I got a panicked call around 1 p.m. on day 63 from a keeper telling me the kiwi had hatched. She had to repeat it three times before it sunk into my brain. I rushed to my car and raced to the zoo (I live 26 miles away and broke many speed limits on the way in). I think that was the fastest I ever made it to the Zoo. The keepers had checked on the egg only about two hours before they got a call from our HVAC unit that an alarm had gone off that the incubator was out of range of the temperature settings. (All of our incubators are monitored by our HVAC staff remotely so they can call someone in if the incubator go out of range during the night.) Two keepers went in to look, and lo and behold they saw from across the room a dark fuzzy object in the incubator. At first they thought it was dead and then they got closer and it moved! They called the vet staff and me, by the time I got there the vets had come and gone and pronounced all well. I sent out emails to some folks in New Zealand to ask if they had ever hatched out a kiwi at 63 days. They said no, but you could almost see them shrug their shoulders and say, ”Well it’s a kiwi, all bets are off.” They said they wouldn’t worry about it as long as the wee one looked good. This was our first kiwi chick at the National Zoo in about 30 years, so we spent a lot of time over the next two weeks just looking at him and praying all was well. It was, and Manaia wasa very laid back bird right from the beginning and didn’t seem to be fazed by all the attention from the staff and the media. He just took everything in his stride.

We expected to see some media interest in our country, but we were taken off guard by the amount of press we got in New Zealand. Manaia’s hatching made the press, TV, and radio over there. I was even interviewed over the phone for a live broadcast on a radio station in Auckland! Simply amazing.

Manaia’s hatching also corresponded with the arrival (the same day) of the New Zealand Ambassador Roy Ferguson and his wife, Dawn. This began our close relationship with the New Zealand embassy. Over the years, Manaia met many of the staff and their families, including many of their family and friends that came to visit D.C.. Manaia has met several celebrities in his time. Hs unusual friendly and whimsical style he won over many “non-bird” people to adore him and all kiwi. Manaia could be trusted to be kind to children (as young as four months) up to the senior citizens. He won them all over by his sweet and unpretentious nature.

Kiwi generally are not too concerned with us humans. They can also be very aggressive toward us (we are just big kiwi to be kicked out of their territory), but not Manaia. I am not anthropomorphizing him, but Manaia did have a very unusual nature for a kiwi. They do not imprint like other birds or animals that are hand-reared You just get what you get with kiwi. But you cannot work with any animal as intimately as we did with Manaia and not develop real feelings for them. I always understood that he was not my petm but a very special animal that I had the privilege to get know and work with. My life will be different without Manaia in it, but I also will have the wonderful memories that I got to share part of his life. I will never forget the wonderful bird that was truly a one of kind, Haere ra my friend and may your wairua find its way to Aotearoa. Kei te aroha au ki a koe, Manaia.

I do want to add a little bit of what we are doing now. With Manaia’s passing, we have put the Meet A Kiwi program on hold. Since we relied very heavily on Manaia, we did not keep up our training with Koa, and we felt he wasn’t ready to step up to doing the program full-time. So we went back to the basics. We have started doing training or conditioning sessions almost every day that last anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. This involves putting Koa in the Meet A Kiwi viewing box with his special treats, mealworms, waxworms, and of course earthworms scattered around in the mulch. Koa has really come along very well, and within the last month he has become more relaxed and less antsy. We hope by mid-August we will begin again offering the Meet A Kiwi program to small groups. Koa has always had a different attitude then Manaia but in the last year he has come to actually eat worms from hand, he never wanted to hand feed as a youngster, so I think eventually he will become more comfortable with the keeper staff.

The other tidbit of news is that we are now going to be keeping our youngest kiwi, nicknamed “Pip,” originally he was going to be sent to Alphen in the Netherlands for breeding but the sad loss of Manaia, we took another look at what arrangements we could make to keep our commitment to send a young male there for their female. The kiwi chick that hatched out at a SCBI, nicknamed “Pokey” by his keepers (he was named that as the first thing they saw of him was his beak poking out of the shell) was actually a better genetic match then Pip, so Pokey will be going to the Netherlands in the fall. Now Pip is being groomed to be our other Ambassador kiwi. He was somewhat like Manaia in that he tended to be very comfortable being with people. But as originally he was destined for breeding, we did not spend a lot of time handling him. We are also putting Pip through the conditioning sessions, time in the viewing box with treats, but we are also spending time holding him and giving him some exercise on the floor with a few people to get him comfortable with walking around and meeting some folks. He has his own way. He was bit antsy when we started the floor part (we just began this stage last week), but seems to be getting more comfortable. We are going to take the long view so to speak with his training, so I don’t anticipate Pip doing the Meet A Kiwi program for many months. But the beginning stage looks hopeful.

To wind up this very long update is that the other kiwi are fine but Maori and Nessus are really waiting like the rest of u

May 30, 2012

We have some very sad news. One of our brown kiwis, our six-year-old male Manaia died Saturday, May 26, at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. He had not exhibited any warning signs of clinical illness.

Typically, kiwi are aggressive, but Manaia exhibited a calm and friendly personality. He had the sole distinction of serving as an educational ambassador for his species in the Zoo's "Meet a Kiwi" program, where visitors could observe Manaia up close and learn about the Zoo's partnership with conservation organizations, such as Operation Nest Egg. The Zoo has temporarily suspended this program while keepers prepare Mania's younger brother, Koa, to participate. The National Zoo has the only such kiwi program in the country.

Born Feb. 13, 2006, Manaia was the second brown kiwi to hatch at the Zoo, which has had success breeding these birds since 1975. The Zoo has contributed greatly to the Brown Kiwi Species Survival Plan; Maori (father) and Nessus (mother) produced six chicks from February 2006 to March 2012. Currently there are only 16 female and 35 male brown kiwi in zoos outside New Zealand. The Zoo's Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, also has a breeding pair of kiwi. Altogether, the Zoo has eight kiwi in its collection. The lifespan of wild and captive kiwi can be 60 years.

Most Zoo animals participate in a breeding program called the Species Survival Plan. The SSP scientists determine which animals breed by considering their genetic makeup, nutritional and social needs, temperament and overall health. Manaia was not paired with a mate and did not sire any offspring. Zoo pathologists conducted a full postmortem examination, and a final report may provide more information in the next few weeks.

March 31, 2012

Wow where has the time gone?! I can’t believe so much has happened, and I haven’t done a kiwi update since January. My only excuse is that I have been very busy with kiwi happenings.

Omana, our little girl is over 600 grams and doing very well. She is like her sisters, fairly independent and knows her own mind. Omana was named by the New Zealand Ambassador and his wife, the honorable Mike and Yvonne Moore. We hope they get to come soon and meet her, but they are very busy especially with Christchurch earthquake relief work. She is a very beautiful bird and the future plans for her will involve a trip to Europe, probably in the fall. The Berlin Zoo is excited to have her join them, where there are several males that are good candidates for her when she grows up.

Our second chick of the season hatched on March 7 and is a very healthy and bouncing boy! I was hoping for a male, and I got my wish. Though he does not have an official name yet, I have nicknamed him “Pip”, as he was a very lively guy almost from day one. Within twenty four hours, when I would come to weigh him, he would shuffle over to the door of the isolate and try to jump out to me. He is very sweet natured and really seems to enjoy being with people. He reminds somewhat of Manaia, though Manaia was a wee bit more laid back. The other unusual behavior that Pip did for the first four or five days was he would go to sleep on his back in my hand. I have never had a kiwi chick do that before, really too cute and funny. He actually did this with several other visitors we had!

I have to say this one went right to my heart. The other funny thing about Pip is he talks even more then Hiri did; he always has something to say. Pip also has his future home picked out for him. He will be going to the Antwerp Zoo, where there is a young lady that has been waiting for a boy from our kiwi for a couple of years. The curator and staff at Antwerp are over the moon and think he is a beautiful bird (always the right answer). Pip has made a lot of friends at the Zoo who have come by to visit with him.

I hope by the time this goes to press that the kiwi cam will be fixed and all of our kiwi friends can enjoy watching our newest member.

The other exciting news is that the Columbus Zoo kiwi pair produced two fertile eggs, one which went out to our SCBI and the second egg went to Central Park Zoo (NYC). Both eggs made the trips to their future homes without incident. Central Park Zoo sent four staff members down to spend a day with me to learn about kiwi egg incubation and kiwi chick care. At that time our second egg was still in the incubator, so the staff got to handle Omana and the egg.

Both of these eggs have now hatched. The egg at SCBI hatched on March 11 and is another boy. This male nicknamed by the staff out there “Pokey” (as their first look at him was his bill poking thru the shell) is very active and squeaky boy. Both Pip and Pokey are now eating and gaining weight. The SCBI staff is very happy to have this experience with incubation and now rearing a chick. The pair at SCBI are in breeding condition, and we are hoping for good news on that front soon.

The staff at Central Park are all breathing a little easier now that their chick has hatched and looks perfect. We don’t know the sex of their chick yet, but hope to know in another week or so. Now they just have to get through the next part of the normal weight loss and then the feeding. They have all fallen in love with their first kiwi but how could you not? Kiwi chicks are adorable, each one is an individual and quite unique.

All of our other kiwi are well. I am putting together a kiwi bio page with a picture of each our kiwi (including SCBI). This idea actually came from a kiwi fan. I hope by the summer to have this put together and edited for the web, so stayed tuned.

The only other kiwi hatch outside of New Zealand happened in early January at Frankfurt Zoo, a male from one of their established pairs. Unfortunately the fertile egg from the new pair from New Zealand did not make it--the embryo died early on. So that was a disappointment, but at least now we know the pair is a match and that is great news.

March 8, 2012

As devoted kiwi cam watchers may already know, a second kiwi chick hatched yesterday, March 7! At 4:15 a.m. that morning, the cam still showed a pipping egg. By the time keepers arrived just before 6 a.m. they found a peeping kiwi chick just picking off the last pieces of egg shell.

This egg was laid in late December. Geneticists will determine the chick's sex in the next week.

February 28, 2012

As you all know by now our newest kiwi has a name and the consensus here is we are all really pleased with it. She is named after the area where the Honorable Mike and Yvonne Moore (New Zealand Ambassador) hail from.

The park has an intriguing name, Omana which is a shorthand version of O-Manawatere ("the dwelling place of Manawatere") a Ngai Tai pa site in the park. Ngai Tai tradition records that this ancestor travelled from the Pacific homeland not by canoe, but by gliding over the waves on a Taniwha.' (beings that live in deep pools or the sea, often depicted as dragons or serpents).

Omana is now over 525 grams, not quite doubled her hatch weight. Omana was moved to her new mouse-proof enclosure that was custom-built for the zoo’s kiwi chicks!!! I know you are all anxious to see her in new home (as I am) but we have to wait for the IT folks to catch up to us. So the kiwi cam for now is focused on our newest kiwi egg which is progressing nicely. I think we will see a mid-March hatch but as most of you know until we get very close to the hatching it’s just a great guess.

Several items of interest are happening on the kiwi front. First Columbus Zoo did not have room for kiwi chicks this yea,r and since kiwi do not read the script for what there is room for, the Columbus pair has produced two fertile eggs!! Which is great news for some other kiwi zoos including our own SCBI group. The kiwi team there picked up the first fertile egg at the end of January and are now incubating the egg at their place. This will give the folks at SCBI a chance to get their own experience in kiwi incubation (which is different from other eggs) and rearing their own kiwi chick. I think this egg will hatch toward the end of March. They are very excited (so am I).

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS, formally the Bronx Zoo, which includes several smaller zoos, like Central Park Zoo, CPZ) got their first two male kiwi last year and they are really gung -ho to get into kiwi big time. So when Columbus Zoo produced a second fertile egg I contacted them and asked if they would like to try their hand at kiwi incubation and chick rearing. It didn’t take long to hear back with a resounding yes. To this end CPZ sent down four keepers to spend a day with me and our kiwi and get some hands-on experience with our egg and chick. I think they came away with less stress and feeling they can do this!! Their staff has some great experience with incubating some very rare and endangered bird species and even though kiwi are bit more intense I am positive their staff is up the test!

Which if all four kiwi eggs (including the one in Frankfurt Zoo) hatch, we will actually have more than 50 kiwi outside of New Zealand, whew!!!

All the rest of our kiwi tribe continue to be in good health and active normal kiwi (well of course except for our very sweet natured Manaia, who is an exceptional kiwi)!

February 23, 2012

The third female brown kiwi that hatched at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo Dec. 11 has a new moniker: Omana (pronounced “oh-MAH-nah”). Mike Moore, New Zealand Ambassador to the United States, named the kiwi in honor of his hometown, O-Manawatere, a city located southeast of Auckland. Omana’s December 11 hatching is important to kiwi conservation—currently, there are only 15 female and 33 male kiwi in zoos outside New Zealand.

Only five zoos outside of New Zealand have successfully bred these unique birds, and the National Zoo has cared for six chicks—three males and three females—since Toru hatched in 1975. Like her wild-caught father Maori, Omana will become a valuable breeder because her genes are not well-represented in the captive population. She will not be on exhibit at the Zoo. However, in a few weeks, visitors to the Zoo’s website will be able to watch Omana forage in her new enclosure via the Kiwi Cam.The Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, also has a breeding pair of kiwi.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers brown kiwi an endangered species due, in part, to predation by dogs, cats, and stoats (members of the weasel family). The remaining wild population of the brown kiwi is estimated at roughly 24,000, down from 60,000 in the 1980s. In an effort to reduce chick deaths, New Zealand developed Operation Nest Egg and other programs that remove eggs and chicks from the wild, rear them in captivity and release them back to the forests once they weigh one kilogram—the weight at which they can defend themselves from most predators. The kiwi population is stabilizing in areas where conservation efforts occur.

January 12, 2012

Our newest member has turned one month old, and her weight is 288 grams up from her hatch weight of 224grams. And “ta-da” we have another girl! Of course we are thrilled to have another kiwi chick, but another girl is the best holiday present of all. This one has the same personality as Areta and Manaia. She is quite feisty in the morning. but when she calms down, she is a bit of a snuggler. She is eating her diet quite well, but doesn’t want to be hand fed.

The other interesting note is that she also squeaks like her two sisters. She doesn’t talk as much as Hiri did, but she does chat. As with all of our kiwi chicks she absolutely adores having her head rubbed (much like cats around the ears). Her eyes close, and if she could purr I think she would.

Several people have asked if she has a cowlick behind her neck. At first I thought, like all kiwi, this “wave” in her feathers would straighten out, but after all this time it does look like she might have a permanent wave. It is too cute! I know several people have asked about her name, stay tuned for details.

We hope that sometime in March she might be joined by another chick. When I came back from the holidays I received a bonus gift of finding a kiwi egg was laid around December 28. Maori is doing his wonderful job of incubating, while Nessus is content to let him get on with it. Below is some of the pictures of our newest girl including some with a holiday bent. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed taking them. I hope that we can do another photo shoot at the end of the month so stayed tuned. All of our kiwi are doing great, and Koa continues to keep his weight up. It took a long time to get there, but he got there eventually. He and Manaia continue to share the ambassador duties for our Meet a Kiwi program.

A note from our overseas partners: Frankfurt Zoo’s new kiwi from New Zealand have produced their first egg, but alas like our new male out at SCBI-Front Royal, the male didn’t quite know what to do with it. They have an older experienced male (who is no longer breeding), so they decided to give him the egg. Like the pro that he is he popped on that egg with 30 minutes. They are seeing development, which is really exciting. Time will tell if this egg will hatch. They are expecting their first kiwi chick from their older pair soon.

Out at SCBI-Front Royal the new kiwi facility is almost completely finished. They still have yard work to do: mostly adding plants (anyone who wants to donate money to help with buying some plants would be welcomed!) The birds have moved into the house part and have settled down nicely. I have high hopes in the coming months their pair will be giving us some eggs. GO SCBI!

In the US, Columbus Zoo has produced their first kiwi egg of the season. They will check it at the end of the month. If any of you are in the Memphis area, check out their new addition. They received Justus from Columbus Zoo late last year. (Justus was the male that was on display, but Columbus is putting their young boys in that exhibit, so everyone in that area can view them). And it looks like all the shifting around of males for the San Diego girls may be paying off at last. The pairs are getting along and we have high hopes that the girls have found love at last.

Finally just a interesting note from New Zealand: Pukaha Mt Bruce hatched out a second white chick (from the same pair that produced the first). This one is named Mauriora which means “sustained life.” This one is also adorable (aren’t they all). Congrats to the team there. They actually have another egg from the same pair incubating, so it will be interesting to see what color that one is.