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Rare All-White Kiwi Hatches at New Zealand Conservation Center

Kiwi SketchThe Kiwi, New Zealand’s national bird, is the ultimate avian oddball.  Kiwis are round in shape, lack visible wings and have spiky, hair-like feathers; unlike other birds, their nostrils are located at the ends of their long, slender bills, and they have a well-developed sense of smell.  Apparently, however, such distinguishing features were not enough to suit Manukura, a Kiwi that hatched in May, 2011 at the Pulcaha Nature Reserve…he is all white, as well!  Manukura, whose name, means “Of Chiefly Status” in a local indigenous language, is a Northern Brown Kiwi, Apteryx mantelli, one of 5 Kiwi species found on New Zealand.

Kiwi Reintroduction Program

Kiwis are found only on New Zealand, and have decreased drastically in numbers due to habitat loss and predation by cats, stoats, foxes and other introduced mammals.  Northern Brown Kiwis are being bred at the Pulcaha Nature Reserve (please see article below) and were re-introduced to the wild there in 2003.  However, despite intense efforts, breeding results have been spotty – between 2005 and 2010, only 10 chicks were produced.  Recently, Kiwis from Little Barrier Island were added to the breeding group at Pulcaha in order to improve the gene pool.

The effect of adding new birds has exceeded all expectations – this year alone, 14 chicks have hatched.  All are housed in predator-proof outdoor enclosures so that they can adjust to life in the wild, and 2 have already been released.

An Unexpected Surprise

There are reports of a few white Kiwis on Little Barrier Island, and some of those brought to the breeding center bore white markings.  But little Manukura is the first all white Kiwi to hatch in captivity (he is not an albino).  His appearance was taken by local people to be a reminder of just how special life is.  Manukura will be held in an outdoor enclosure with other young Kiwis for 4-6 months.  Please see the article below for photographs of Manukura and (of course!) a link to his Facebook page.

At present, release to the wild is being considered.  This struck me as odd, considering the poor survival and breeding prospects for most unusually-colored birds, but I imagine that biologists will weigh all options before making a final decision as to his fate.



Further Reading

Manukura’s photos and Facebook page

Pukaha Nature Reserve

Northern Brown Kiwi natural history

Great Spotted Kiwi image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by J Brew

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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