After undergoing a 78-day incubation, one of the longest of all birds, a rare kiwi chick hatched last week at the San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Center. Animal care staff made the decision to intervene with the hatching of this newest chick when it didn’t proceed as it should.
Unlike most birds, it is the father kiwi that incubates the enormous egg. The female is nearby and will sometimes lay a second egg a few weeks later. When hatching, a kiwi chick typically pokes a ring at the top of the egg with its beak, allowing it to emerge from the top of the egg. This chick accidentally poked its legs through the bottom of the egg, making it difficult to emerge. Staff monitoring the chick carefully taped the bottom of the egg to give the chick the opportunity to hatch on its own, but after the chick was still unsuccessful, keepers peeled back part of the shell to assist with the hatching.
Animal care staff will continue to monitor the chick, measuring its weight and observing the young bird in a brooder over the next few weeks.
“Kiwis are very unusual. When they hatch, they just sleep for several days,” said Dave Rimlinger, curator of birds for the San Diego Zoo. “They don’t eat, we don’t feed them, and the reason is they have a lot of the yolk still inside their body and they absorb that for several days. We will just monitor the chick to make sure the temperature and humidity is right (in the brooder) and in several days we will start feeding the chick.”
This is the first kiwi hatch at the San Diego Zoo in 10 years, making this hatch extremely significant. The San Diego Zoo is one of just six zoos in the United States working with these endangered birds. Currently, there are four brown kiwis at the Zoo, all living in off-exhibit areas.