It’s Christmastime – but the wish list of wild Northland kiwi is probably a little different to ours!
While many of us may be hoping for blissful blue skies and long sunny days for our Christmas Day and summer break, Northland wild kiwi are wishing for a moister mid-summer and for all the rain we’ve been having to continue! Many kiwi have now completed their first nest of the season and all things going to plan, have successfully hatched a chick or two, and are now preparing for a second nest. Rather than a relaxing holiday, wild kiwi are now at their busiest…
The first batch of Northland kiwi chicks are just starting to leave the nesting site and venture out into the big, wild world. Never fed by their parents, and only 2-3 weeks old, they are pretty new to this and are still learning how to feed, what to eat and how to stay safe.
The bills of kiwi chicks are short and soft – they can only probe the leaf litter and upper soil layers. This means they need moist, soft soil to probe their bill into to capture worms, beetles and other bugs like cicada larvae. Yumm, their favourite. If the soil is moist it will be home to more bugs too so kiwi get a good feed more easily.
Sizzling summer days may be perfect for a human holiday by a gorgeous Northland beach, but for kiwi that’s not so great. The baking sun sets clay – one of our most common soil types – like concrete. Kiwi, especially chicks, can then start to struggle to gather enough food. This means they go looking elsewhere, often into crazy places like people’s backyards or roadside ditches. They may also need to forage for longer, even during daylight hours to get a full feed and then get into trouble.
Mum and Dad kiwi need this too. Mum is still recovering from laying 2 HUGE eggs a few months ago. These super-mums don’t layabout. They’ll be feeding up fast and are most likely already gravid, developing the next batch of eggs, and getting ready for the second nest of the season.
And spare a thought for the kiwi Dad’s too. They’ve just completed their first stretch of nesting duty – incubating the eggs for 80-90 days, and only emerging from the nesting burrow a couple of hours each night to stretch their legs and grab a quick bite. If there is plenty of food around the nesting burrow, this makes life a lot easier and gets him back to the nest quicker, keeping those eggs the perfect temperature.
So all the pest control being done by groups and projects linked into Kiwi Coast across Northland reaps huge dividends for native wildlife at this time of the year. Less pests = better forests, and this is so true for kiwi.
Less possums munching tree leaves means more leaves fall to the forest floor, creating nice thick mulchy leaf litter – perfect for first-time foraging kiwi chicks to scrunch about in, looking for tasty treats. Rats also feed on insects, so less rats means less competition for food, and a bigger Christmas Day feast for kiwi! And of course, stoats love nothing more than kiwi chicks for Christmas dinner, so huge thanks to all the predator trappers who work hard through summer – checking traps every fortnight in our forests, farmland and other kiwi habitat while most of us enjoy a break.
And if your dog is also enjoying a nice holiday with you in Northland, chances are, kiwi are out and about nearby. No stress – keep it simple and your dog kiwi-safe. Just keep that lead clipped on when out and about, do a bit of local research to check out any restrictions and ensure your dog is contained or with you instead of roaming about having a holiday all of its own and getting into mischief.
Northland kiwi can be anywhere – and often turn up in surprising places. There are plenty of safe open spaces dogs can hoon, swim and have a great time without endangering our special native creatures. Maybe come along to our “Know your dog” workshops and learn about how amazing your pooch really is and how we can have safe wildlife and dogs too!
At the end of the day, we all want a happy and safe Christmas, with good and plentiful food and great weather. To our kiwi that might mean something a bit different, but with a bit of thought, some sun, the odd shower, and some care for kiwi we can all flourish through the festive season.