Queenstown’s next top kiwi

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A popular Queenstown tourist spot is preparing for its first arrival of two endangered baby brown kiwi chicks. 

Two eggs have been laid and are being incubated at the Kiwi Birdlife Park. Also surprising for the park is the parents of both eggs are young birds – mother Tawahi is only two and father Tamanui is three – usually kiwi start breeding from three or four. 

“The pair was introduced to each other in May this year and they started breeding the next day,” senior keeper Nicole Kunzmann says. 

The first fertile egg was laid in August, followed by another early last month – staff won’t know if the second egg is fertile for a few more days. 

“Due to their inexperience, the kiwi pair didn’t attempt to incubate the eggs. They did, however, use them regularly as a pillow and a footrest,” she says. 

Park staff decided to hand parental responsibilities of the eggs to Nyoni, a nine-year-old male brown kiwi. 

“Male brown kiwi do all of the incubating,” Kunzmann explains. 

“Nyoni happily accepted the first egg and was carefully incubating it before it was transferred to a manual incubator last week. He’s now incubating the second egg. 

“He is a truly dedicated foster dad and spends about 20 hours a day on the egg.” 

The first egg is due to hatch this month and the other – if fertile – is expected next February. 

“These eggs are such good news because it was unlikely for the pair to breed so young, and for their breeding attempt to produce fertile eggs,” Kunzmann says. 

“It’s particularly exciting because this is a very important lineage of kiwi to the captive breeding program and there haven’t been many of this line bred in captivity.”