Rotorua’s National Kiwi Hatchery is a pretty remarkable place to visit.
It’s a big day for Bloom, the kiwi named after our very own Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Weighing 353 grams, Bloom was born late September and spent the first ten days feeding off his yolk. One of the many things I didn’t know about kiwi, before today, is that chicks are born with a big external yolk sac to help nourish them in their first few days. How is this eaten? It’s absorbed through the naval.
Bloom quite enjoyed his photoshoot.
Now, as little Bloom watches the world with anticipation, he’s about to experience a significant milestone: eating through his beak.
Rotorua’s National Kiwi Hatchery is a pretty remarkable place to visit. You’ll get a behind the scenes glimpse into the kiwi hatchery – and if you arrive for the 10am tour – could see Bloom and a host of other chicks undergo their daily weigh-in and health check.
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The hatchery is New Zealand’s biggest and has been instrumental in helping increase the survival rate of newborn kiwi. Eggs from sanctuaries around New Zealand are brought to the centre to be incubated, then hatched.
Visitors get to see the hatchery up close through glass, with a baby kiwi in the lower right box.
If this were left to happen in the wild, only about five per cent of kiwi live to see one kilogram – the weight at which they’re deemed “stoat proof” and able to defend themselves. However, if a kiwi is born at the hatchery, around 95 per cent will make it to the one-kilogram mark, and be released back into the sanctuary they were taken from.
Since Bloom was born, he’s gradually lost weight, but that’s expected as he uses up his yolk. Today, he’s starting on solid food, and that will mean his weight will start to rebound in the coming weeks.
You may see eggs being inspected during your tour of the hatchery.
As Bloom sits before us, snuggled into the lap of Hatchery Manager Emma Bean, all he wants to do is dig his beak into his fur, roll into a ball, and go to sleep. For the past two days, Bloom hasn’t eaten the solids that were put before him, and Bean thinks that’s because he’s super-intelligent.
As adults, kiwis appear to stab their bill into the ground randomly looking for food. But as Bean explains, “they are using the sensory pits at the top of their bills, to pick up on the movements in the soil. And that’s how they’re honing in on the insects”.
It turns out that clever kiwi chicks like their food to wriggle, so Bean is moving it about in front of his bill. He needs the first few morsels of diced ox heart, vegetables and vitamins forced into his beak – but soon gets a taste. He lets out a little squeal of surprise the first time he eats through his mouth.
Bloom started to enjoy his food.
After his meal, Bean gives Bloom a gentle beak massage, and his eyes start to relax, and he promptly falls asleep.
Bloom will live in the hatchery for the next few weeks, before being moved to an outside enclosure. But there’s no shortage of kiwis to see at the centre, with 16 chicks already hatched, 15 eggs incubating, and 14 more due in the coming days. Visitors get to see all this up close, through glass, happening just a few metres away from them.
A kiwi in the hatchery starting to break its egg.
I’ve been lucky enough to see kiwi in the wild a few times, but seeing baby kiwi being reared is something few experience. Yet it’s as easy a visit to the National Kiwi Hatchery.
More information: Open Thursday – Sunday, from 8.30am – until 2pm, with tours every hour on the hour starting from 9am. Last tour of the day is at 1pm. $15 for a child, $30 per adult. See: nationalkiwihatchery.org.nz
Brook Sabin and Radha Engling are travelling the length of New Zealand on a Stuff Travel nationwide road trip in a new Hyundai Kona Electric. The vehicle has 449km of real-world range on a single charge, for more information see: hyundai.co.nz/Kona-electric
Look out for the Stuff Travel Hyundai Kona as it travels around New Zealand.
The author’s trip was supported by Rotorua NZ and this story was produced as a part of an editorial partnership with Tourism New Zealand. Read more about our partnership content here.