Thursday, February 16, 2006

Get Ready For Kiwi Krazy At National Zoo

A North Island brown kiwi has hatched at the Smithsonian's National Zoo-only the second of these endangered kiwis to hatch during the Zoo's 116-year history. The National Zoo is one of just four zoos in the world to breed kiwis outside of New Zealand.

The bird hatched on Monday, Feb. 13, after 64 days of incubation. A quick health exam by National Zoo veterinarians and Bird House staff determined that the chick was healthy. In the last few weeks, National Zoo Bird House staff monitored the chick's development inside the egg each day, by weighing and candling the egg-a procedure that uses a bright light to illuminate the egg's interior, enabling staff to see the egg's air cell and monitor the chick's growth inside.

The kiwi chick weighed 9.7 ounces when it hatched and will rest in an incubator for the first week; it will be removed for daily weighing. Once it is able to stand, it will be placed in a specially designed brooder box off-exhibit, where it will continue to grow and develop under the careful observation of Zoo staff. Kiwi chicks hatch fully feathered, with their eyes open and begin foraging for small worms and berries after their first week of life, since they receive no help from their parents.

In 1975, the National Zoo was the first institution outside of New Zealand to hatch a kiwi. That 30-year-old bird is still on exhibit at the Zoo's Bird House. The Zoo currently has five kiwis―one female, three males and the newly hatched chick, whose gender is not yet known.

The five recognized species of kiwis are all flightless, nocturnal, burrowing birds that are unique to New Zealand. North Island Brown Kiwis are listed as "endangered" by the International Union of Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

* National Zoo Website

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