by Photo by Ken Bohn, courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

A North Island brown kiwi bird hatched at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park for the first time, bringing valuable genetic diversity to the small population of its species in North America. 

The male chick hatched on June 13, and wildlife care specialists report he is doing well. They will continue to monitor the chick’s diet and weight gain for several weeks. 

“We are very excited over the hatching of this chick,” said Andrew Stehly, curator of birds at the San Diego Zoo Safari park.

According to Stehly, North Island brown kiwis are notoriously difficult to breed in human care. 

“While it is a success for our dedicated team of wildlife care specialists, more importantly, this hatching allows us to learn more about the North Island brown kiwi, further contributing to the conservation efforts for this species,” Stehly said. 

Wildlife care specialists describe the brown kiwi as a flightless bird about the size of a chicken that makes homes in ground burrows instead of trees. 

The kiwi is native to New Zealand and is a national icon in the country. 

The bird is mostly nocturnal, emerging from its burrow at night to feed on worms and other invertebrates. According to the Safari Park, kiwis typically mate for life; and after conception, the female lays a very large egg that is more than one-fifth of her body weight, one of the largest in proportion to body size of any bird in the world.  

The egg incubates for up to 85 days until the chick hatches. Wildlife care specialists say that the parents abandon the chick after it hatches. 

Five species of kiwi birds exist. They are protected by New Zealand law. Kiwis are categorized as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. 

According to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife alliance, 95 percent of all kiwi chicks are killed before they reach 6 months of age; and every two years, the kiwi population decreases by 10 percent. They are mostly killed by predation of non-native species, including dogs and cats. 

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