Locums for a Small World Blog

Kiwi locums are atwitter over their fair-feathered friend

Posted by Saralynn White

Meet the little white chick we call Lucky #13: a rare kiwi bird who hatched last month in New Zealand and has captured the world’s imagination. Locals (and locums) are flocking to see the cuddly oddity – the 13th of 14 new chicks hatched at  Puhaka Mount Bruce, a conservation center near Wellington.

Named Manukura by Māori Elders, the moniker means ‘of chiefly status’ and the fuzzy creature is considered a rare good omen. Why? His/her fair feathers, of course. Although 14 chicks hatched
(in what has been the most successful breeding season in the history of the wildlife center), Manukura was the ultimate surprise: all-white, when brown was the color of the day for the rest of the brood. And the first white kiwi to be hatched in captivity.

The fuzzy creature (whose sex won’t be determined for another few weeks) isn’t an albino, either, but a rare offspring of the brown kiwi transferred to Pukaha from Little Barrier Island last year as part of a plan to increase the kiwi gene pool and grow the population long-term. "The kiwi population on Little Barrier Island has birds with white markings and some white kiwi, but this was still a big surprise,” said Pukaha chairman Bob Francis.

Pukaha board member and Rangitane chief executive, Jason Kerehi, said Māori tribal elders saw the white chick as a ‘tohu’ or ‘sign’ of new beginnings. “Every now and then something extraordinary comes along to remind you of how special life is. While we’re celebrating all 14 kiwi hatched this year, Manukura is a very special gift.” 

Very special indeed. Compared to the period between 2005 and 2010 - when only
10 chicks were hatched at Pukaha - this season had been a major success. Says Francis, "Faster breeding is exactly what was intended by the transfer, but were blown away by the number of chicks produced so quickly."

That’s exceptional news for this beloved national symbol of New Zealand, which is endangered. In fact, this
70-million-year-old flightless bird’s numbers have decreased nearly 86% over the past 36 years due to predators and loss of habitat. You can help save kiwi birds here.

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