Kiwi eggs rolling in despite late start

The 2019/2020 kiwi egg-lifting season is approaching its mid-way mark and a leading Hawkes Bay kiwi conservation initiative is reporting good numbers of eggs despite a slow start. The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust, which runs the Maungataniwha Kiwi Programme, says the season is shaping up to be an unusually long one, with kiwi eggs likely to be lifted well into March.

Kiwi eggs are lifted in two clutches. The Trust has now lifted first-clutch eggs from all but three of the nests it is monitoring and has so far transported 33 first-clutch eggs and one second-clutch egg to the National Kiwi Hatchery in Rotorua for incubation.

A lot of the birds the Trust is monitoring are only starting their second clutch of eggs now (end November/early December). Normally they would have started at the end of October.

“It’ll be well into the New Year before these second clutch eggs are ready to lift,” said Trust staffer and resident kiwi expert Barry Crene. “Normally we’d have started lifting a few second clutch eggs by now, but so far we’ve only had one.

“It was a slow start to the season and that has translated into a later-than-usual second clutch of eggs.”

Mr Crene was pleased with the number of eggs lifted in the first clutch.

“After the slow start we saw, it was a relief to see those eggs starting to appear. Better late than never.”

He said young birds that had not been able to produce viable eggs in the past had done so this season.

“We’ve had two good eggs from one of these birds so they’re starting to do the business.”

Chicks from about 20 of the first clutch of Maungataniwha eggs have already been incubated at the National Kiwi Hatchery and are now being reared in a special predator-proofed area at Cape Sanctuary near Napier.

The second clutch is typically not as productive as the first and Mr Crene won’t be drawn on the number of viable eggs the Trust expects to be able to deliver by the end of the season.

“I don’t count our kiwi before they’re hatched,” he said.

The Forest Lifeforce Restoration Trust has carved out a name for itself as one of the most prolific and successful kiwi conservation initiatives in the country. Earlier this year it released back into the wild its 300th kiwi reared over 11 seasons. Manager Pete Shaw said the Trust’s work with kiwi could not happen without the help and investment from its conservation partners, particularly the Cape Sanctuary, the National Kiwi Hatchery and its funder Ngai Tahu, the Department of Conservation and Kiwis for kiwi, the only national charity dedicated to protecting kiwi.

This partnership was illustrated graphically a few weeks ago when bad weather meant a helicopter was unable to reach Maungataniwha Native Forest to collect kiwi eggs bound for the National Kiwi Hatchery. Mr Shaw and volunteer Glen Mackay drove to the edge of the Trust’s property, waded over the Te Hoe River onto neighbouring property Ngatapa Station and handed the eggs to station manager Duncan Rose. Mr Rose and his family then drove the eggs, along with eggs from a kiwi nest on Ngatapa Station, to Rotorua.

“Kiwi conservation is not just about partnerships, it’s about community,” Mr Shaw said. “It’s about friends, neighbours and our volunteers banding together to protect our national icon. Frequently in the dark and the cold and the pouring rain. They do it for love – literally.”

In addition to the Maungataniwha Kiwi Project the Trust runs a series of native flora and fauna regeneration projects. These include a drive to increase the wild-grown population of Kakabeak (Clianthus maximus), an extremely rare type of shrub, and the re-establishment of native plants and forest on 4,000 hectares currently, or until recently, under pine.