After Decades of Decline, a Feathered Icon Breeds in New Zealand Capital

"The national bird, the kiwi, has hatched eggs in the wild in the Wellington area for the first time in living memory, thanks to a multiyear conservation effort."

"At the foot of a towering fern, Pete Kirkman pushed his hand through a curtain of dead branches into a burrow. His fingers settled on a lump of feathers. Gently, he withdrew a fist-sized hatchling.

Baffled by the daylight, the chocolate-colored nocturnal bird shook its pencil-like beak from side to side. “You’re OK,” Mr. Kirkman, a conservationist, said soothingly, as he made the discovery last week. Then he heard a scratching from the burrow. He watched in delight as another hatchling charged out, searching for its sibling, and fell into his arms.

The kiwi — a native bird so beloved by New Zealanders that its name has long been a shorthand for them — once roamed throughout the country. Starting in the 1800s, millions were slaughtered by nonnative predators like stoats, a mammal related to the weasel. Now only 70,000 or so kiwis remain, most in remote parks or islands. Accordingly, any hatchling is special. These two, however, were remarkable."

Pete McKenzie reports for the New York Times December 4, 2023.

Source: NYTimes, 12/05/2023