A Baby Kiwi Is Born
Hatching is hard work.
An exhausted baby kiwi, a highly endangered bird from New Zealand, is resting at the Smithsonian's National Zoo after being born early March 7.
Keepers had been incubating the North Island brown kiwi egg for five weeks, following a month long incubation by the chick’s father, carefully monitoring it for signs of pipping: the process in which the chick starts to break through the shell. The chick remained in an isolet for four days and is now in a specially designed brooding box.
Kiwis are one of the world's most endangered species. Only four zoos outside of New Zealand have successfully bred kiwis, and only three U.S. zoos, including the National Zoo, exhibit them.
The sex of the chick is still unknown and is difficult to determine by sight. For this reason, Bird House staff enlisted the help of National Zoo geneticists. Using DNA samples swabbed from the inside of the egg and from the bird’s beak, the geneticists hope to decipher its sex in the coming weeks.
There are five species of kiwi and all are unique to New Zealand. The North Island brown species of kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand. They are widely thought to be the most ancient bird and have existed in New Zealand for more than 30 million years. Kiwis typically mate for life, and both parents share the responsibility of caring for the egg. After kiwi chicks hatch, however, they receive no parental care. Unlike other bird species, kiwis hatch fully feathered and equipped with all of the necessary skills they need to survive.
The North Island brown kiwi species is classified as endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature. The wild population is declining at a rate of approximately 5.8 percent a year. Nearly 60 percent of all wild North Island brown kiwi chicks are killed by stoats, a species of weasel and an introduced predator. The remaining wild population of the North Island brown kiwi is estimated at roughly 24,000, down from 60,000 in the 1980s.