Race to hatch for the first Haast tokoeka kiwi chicks

Rebecca Wilson —  09/10/2010

Last month we heard the good news that all the kiwi eggs at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve had survived the Christchurch quake and that little Richter the Rowi had hatched safely. Now at the start of October we’ve seen the happy arrival of the first Haast tokoeka chicks of the season.Haast tokoeka eggs are lifted from their parents’ nests every breeding season, as part of Bank of New Zealand funded Operation Nest Egg (ONE), so they can’t be munched by stoats.

Haast kiwi ranger Kath Morris up to her armpits in a tokoeka nest. Photo: Haast Tokoeka Kiwi Team.

Haast kiwi ranger Kath Morris up to her armpits in a tokoeka nest.

They travel all the way from Haast in South Westland to Christchurch where Corry-Ann Langford and a team of husbandry rangers at Willowbank care for them.

Shaun Horan weighs a tokoeka egg at Willowbank. Photo: Corry-Ann Langford.

Shaun Horan weighs a tokoeka egg at Willowbank

Last Thursday Corry-Ann told me that two of the eggs in her care IT#1 and BC#1 were in a race to be the first of this season’s tokoeka to break into the world. When the husbandry team left work for the day both chicks had started to hatch using their long beaks and strong feet to break the shell. Corry-Ann’s not sure who was first to the finish line, but it was very close and both little chicks were waiting for them when they got to work on Friday morning.

Two Haast tokoeka chicks. Photo: Corry-Ann Langford.

The chicks’ IDs come from their parents names. In Tune pair (named for nearby Tuning Fork Creek) has been providing eggs for ONE since 2004, but it’s the first year for Brewer Creek pair, as the male has only just been found again after dropping his transmitter. Kiwi team rangers Kath Morris and Blair Hoult lifted IT#1 and BC#1 out of the Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary back in August and they arrived safely at Willowbank on the Friday 13th! Apparently it is lucky for some.

It’s a real relief that these guys made it to hatch as they were alongside fifteen other tokoeka and rowi eggs that narrowly escaped being scrambled in the quake. Corry-Ann says they are absolutely adorable and funding partners the New Zealand Conservation Trust are thrilled with the great start to the season. Sixty five Haast tokoeka chicks have escaped the jaws of stoats and hatched safely at Willowbank since 2005.

Shaun Horan checks on brooding chicks. Photo Corry-Ann Langford.

Shaun Horan checks on brooding chicks

All the chicks hatched in captivity are either returned to the Sanctuary when they’re big enough to fight off stoats or transferred to insurance populations on predator free islands.

Since IT#1 and BC#1 made it out three more tokoeka chicks have hatched and the remaining seven are well on their way… but the season’s not over yet and the kiwi team in Haast are busy in the field lifting more eggs. IT#1 and BC#1 could have little brothers or sisters on the way, as their parents started early and the kiwi team are hoping both pairs will lay a second clutch.