And it’s just the latest obstacle to be overcome by the fluffy beauty, who was born in a fully-assisted hatch at Queenstown’s Kiwi Birdlife Park seven weeks ago as part of a breed-for-release programme.
Watchful staff realised the chick would not be able to hatch from her egg unaided because she was mal-positioned with her foot caught over her head — preventing her from kicking free of the shell.
Once born, it also became apparent that the chick – who now weighs 594g – had a misaligned beak which would hinder her feeding and threaten her potential survival in the wild.
But experts based 650 miles away at Massey University, in Palmerston North, came to the rescue when they offered to operate using a new technique being developed by vets at the university’s Wildbase Hospital.
The ‘ground-beaking’ corrective surgery was successfully led by Wildbase director Dr Brett Gartrell.
“This little chick is only the third bird to have this surgery and in some ways this was the most difficult to bring back into alignment, as the tip of the lower bill had not only deviated sideways like the end of a hockey stick, but had also begun to curl upwards,” said Dr Gartrell. “It’s taken two very delicate surgeries to bring the bill tip back into alignment without damaging the sensitive blood and nerve supply that kiwi need to be able to sense food at the end of their bills. We’re very happy with this little chick’s progress and are glad to return it home.”
The kiwi is famed as a flightless bird — but don’t you believe it. This one made her return journey in style courtesy of Air New Zealand, who gave her a seat all to herself in the main cabin – much to the delight of passengers and crew.
Kiwi Birdlife Park manager Nicole Kunzmann said: “This poor wee girl had quite a start to life and it’s been a stressful few weeks. It’s quite amazing that we now have a beautiful kiwi chick that will be fit for wild release, and contribute to the national kiwi programme, once she reaches 1kg in weight.”
Now the park is asking the public to help choose from a shortlist of names for the chick, whose October birth coincided with Save the Kiwi month. To enter, pick your favourite name from Ataahua (Beautiful), Hahana (Radiant Light) and Ngaio (Clever), and email your choice along with your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org
The chick’s name will be the one with the most votes when entries close at midnight on Sunday, December 7. And one lucky entrant will win a Kiwi Birdlife Park prize pack worth $448.