Rainbow Springs - family and baby kiwiIt’s spring; a hint of summer is in air, the flowers are blossoming and at Rainbow Springs, the kiwi are starting to hatch.

Rainbow Springs’ involvement in kiwi conservation began in 1995 with the arrival of an orphaned egg and the hatchery has grown over the years to become the largest kiwi hatching facility in New Zealand, successfully incubating and hatching brown kiwi eggs from around the North Island.  More than 1,200 kiwi have hatched at Rainbow Springs and released back into the wild – a huge boost to the conservation of kiwi numbers.

Spring marks the start of the new hatching season, and by all accounts, the 2013-2014 season is shaping up to be another big one.  Kiwi eggs arrived at Rainbow Springs as early as June this year, one from Taranaki has hatched and another two from Maungataniwha (Napier) are incubating on-site and will arrive before the school holidays at the end of September.

There is also a lovely example of the love and care the extended family can offer siblings in the native bird world, with a caring ‘Grandad’ kiwi continually incubating and hatching eggs for his daughter.  The story begins with Tika the adult kiwi male who hasn’t quite got his priorities right!  So far his faithful partner Ahi has laid nine eggs, but instead of sticking to his fatherly duties and incubating the egg, as is the traditional kiwi male role, he wanders off relinquishing that duty to the chicks’ Grandfather Tahi instead.

It’s quite odd behaviour for a kiwi.  Adult male kiwi are supposed to incubate kiwi eggs, this gives mum a break after delivering such a huge egg, but not Tika! Thankfully granddad Tahi is doing a wonderful job.  Kiwi sit for a total of 78-80 days in the wild.  At Rainbow Springs, as part of the breeding programme they sit on the egg for the first 40-60 days, before it is transferred it to an incubator to complete the incubation.

Tika the brown kiwi first became a dad in February 2012, when he fathered the park’s smallest ever chick, he didn’t incubate then, and he hasn’t since.  Rainbow Springs kiwi staff used to give him the opportunity after the egg was born to incubate, but he’s never shown any interest so now the eggs are taken straight to Tahi.

The Kiwi Encounter team are passionate about seeing kiwi become more established in the wild. Claire Travers, Kiwi Encounter Husbandry Manager says, “We always get excited when hatching season begins. The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the public come face to face with these special birds and realise that they can play a part in ensuring their survival.”

Last season the team managed to successfully hatch 118 eggs, 114 from the wild and 4 captive ones. This season Claire hopes to see even more birds hatched.

“Our Kiwi Encounter team have had a good break and are all ready for the new arrivals. We can’t wait to share another season with the public and then see these kiwi released into the wild boosting our precious wild kiwi numbers.”

To get a glimpse at kiwi conservation in action, upgrade your entry ticket to include a Behind the Scenes Kiwi Encounter – just $10 per person and all proceeds help save more kiwi.

(Image of Rainbow Springs Rotorua Kiwi provided courtesy of Rainbow Springs )

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