Kiwi Season: More Nests

Rose holds Gotham, a juvenile from last breeding season. He recently went exploring and moved over a kilometer away from his regular haunts. Photo credit: Alex Wilson

Life just keeps getting busier out here in New Zealand. I mentioned last time that we had an explosion of nests this season (see Kiwi: Early Nests!). Well, now we have even more! By early August there are more than double the number of nests as the previous year’s entire breeding season, and two birds that have never bred before are now breeding. Of course, this surprisingly early breeding season came just before the arrival of our second volunteer, Rose Swift.

Rose arrived in New Zealand in late July after she finished working in the field with western bluebirds in the Monterey area of California. She graduated from the University of California, Davis, in winter 2010 with a degree in wildlife biology. In the summer of 2008, Rose worked with sockeye salmon in Alaska’s Matanuska Valley region. Summer 2009 found Rose on Alaska’s Seward Peninsula working on the Reindeer Research Program through the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. She then worked on a project with mallards for the California Waterfowl Association in summer 2010. She has quite the field experience under her belt and is thrilled to be abroad working with the unique kiwi!

We’re now making two night nest checks per trip to the island. The most mature egg we’ve found is around two months old. A technique known as candling allows Sarah Jamieson (the postdoctoral fellow coordinating the project) to shine a light directly on each egg to see the air cell, veins, and other signs of development. Seeing the egg glow in the darkness of the bush is really a neat sight!

As the kiwi breeding season rolls along, the farm animals here are bringing cute young ones of their own onto the island. Little lambs are adorable from day one, which makes the walk to the gullies more amusing as lambs run and play in the pastures along the way.

Steph Walden is a volunteer for the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

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