Otrohonga NZ Kiwihouse

[TOUR GUIDE]

 

At the Otrohonga Kiwihouse, the conservation team has been conserving Kiwi and other NZ natives since 1971.

Visit and learn about our active brown kiwi breeding program in the heart of the North Island. They are a ‘non-profit’ charity dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand’s native wildlife through education, research, display, and breeding programs. They welcome visitors to our park as their visit helps us care for our animals.

The world-famous Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Black Water Rafting, and caving adventures are a 15-minute drive south and it’s just 2 minutes to Otorohanga’s main street. This is another place that FireTheLier and I went to, especially for his late birthday last year which his birthday was 7 November yet we decided to go later on. If you want to see this video before I share more about this trip in detail about it – Click here

 

They’re 2 hours south of Auckland, 1 hour from the Hobbiton Movie Set, and 1.5 hours from Rotorua and Taupo.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

KIWI
KIWI DIET
5 SPECIES HOUSED
QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE KIWIS
MEET THE STARS
MEET THE OTHER ANIMALS THEY HOUSE

 

Kiwi Conservation At The Otorohanga Kiwi House

 

 

The kiwi is New Zealand’s iconic national bird and an important part of our unique natural heritage. They are feisty, intelligent, and inquisitive birds which is why New Zealanders like to call themselves ‘Kiwis’.

Kiwi is part of a group of large flightless birds known as ratites. Ostriches, emu, and the extinct moa are also part of this group.

At the Otrohonga Kiwihouse, they house and hold over twenty brown kiwis on-site as part of a nationwide captive breeding program for brown kiwis. They are also a pre-release conditioning site for brown kiwis preparing to be released into the wild. They currently hold Northland, western and eastern provenance brown kiwi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When their kiwi is younger, they will display them in specially designed nocturnal enclosures where the day and night cycles have been reversed.

 

Visitors to the park can see these young kiwis during the day carrying out their normal kiwi behaviour such as probing for insects and earthworms in the soil, bathing in the ponds, and digging burrows or climbing logs.

 

The enclosures have native plants, leaf litter, soil, and logs that host a wide range of invertebrates and fruits that make up the majority of the kiwi diet. We also offer kiwi a specially prepared artificial diet to supplement the live food which enables us to feed kiwi if they are in transit or for some reason needed to be cared for in another setting. This also helps keep kiwi in excellent body condition during breeding.

The breeding-age kiwi is in large off-display enclosures nearby, where they are free to raise their chicks. Once kiwi have been bred to capture their genetic material in the breeding program they are released into predator-controlled habitats to increase the number and genetic diversity of kiwi in the wild.

 

They have been conserving and breeding Kiwi since 1971 and were the first Kiwi House in New Zealand to display and breed kiwi and artificially incubate kiwi in captivity for release back to the wild. We have bred three species of kiwi on site; Brown Kiwi, Great Spotted Kiwi, and Little Spotted Kiwi. To date, we have successfully hatched over 160 kiwi chicks and released these into the wild. We are also involved in carrying out research that will assist kiwi survival in the wild and best practices in kiwi husbandry.


Kiwi diet

A little bit of everything

Because kiwi live in such diverse habitats from mountain slopes to exotic pine forests, it can be difficult to define a typical kiwi diet.

Most of their food is made up of invertebrates, and a favourite is native worms which can grow to more than 0.5 meters. Luckily for kiwi, New Zealand is rich in worms with 178 native and 14 exotic species to choose from.

Kiwi also eats berries, seeds, and some leaves including totara, hinau, miro, and various coprosma and hebe.

The kiwi’s breeding success is closely related to its diet. The birds need to build up large reserves to get through the breeding season so if the season has been particularly hard due to drought or flooding, their breeding season may not be as good as usual.

Some unusual foods

Brown kiwi has been known to eat bracket fungi and frogs, and capture and eat freshwater crayfish/koura. In captivity, kiwi have even fished eels/tuna out of a pond, subdued them with a few whacks, and eaten them.

Quenching their thirst

Kiwis can get all the water they need from their food. In fact, juicy earthworms are 85% water! This adaptation means they can live in particularly dry places such as Kapiti Island.

Being nocturnal also helps because they don’t get hot, bothered, and dried out by the sun.

When it does drink, a kiwi immerses its beak, tips back its head, and gurgles down the water.

 

The kiwis they house and conserve have plenty of natural food sources inside their enclosures. They probe in the soil and leaf litter for insects, worms, spiders, and native berries. New leaf litter is brought into enclosures from forested areas each fortnight containing seasonal insects and berries that help to create variety in the kiwi diet. Logs filled with insect life are also brought in for the kiwi to rip into and explore.

Their favorite berries at present are Coprosma robusta berries which are high in caffeine – no wonder they are very active kiwis! We supplement the kiwi’s daily diet with an artificial diet fed out to all kiwi in captivity. It is made with minced beef (steak and ox heart), peas and corn, apples, pears and bananas, currants, a specific design of cat biscuits, wheatgerm, insect powder, CaCo3, corn, and canola oil, and a supplement called the ‘Kiwi PreMix’. Our kiwi certainly dine well!


The 5 kiwi species they house at Otrohonga Kiwihouse:

  • Brown Kiwi (Apteryx mantelli) – These are found in the North Island of New Zealand and are isolated into different geographic regions called provenances; Northland, Coromandel, Eastern, and Western brown kiwi.
  • Great Spotted Kiwi (roroa) (Apteryx haastii) – Found in the high country of the northwestern side of the South Island
  • Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx owenii) – Found only on predator-free islands like Kapiti Island and in predator-free sanctuaries like Zealandia
  • Rowi (Apteryx rowi) – Found in the Okarito area on the west coast of the South Island
  • Tokoeka (Apteryx australis) – Found on Stewart Island, Fiordland, and the west coast of the South Island.

Quick facts

  • Kiwi are related to Australia’s emus and cassowaries and belong to a group of flightless birds called Ratites.
  • All 5 species of kiwi are endangered.
  • Approximately 70,000 kiwis are left in the wild in New Zealand including offshore islands and predator-controlled areas.
  • Kiwi is flightless, with powerful legs that make up a third of the bird’s weight.
  • Kiwi has poor eyesight, but their long probing beak gives them an acute sense of smell & touch.
  • Kiwis are the only bird to have nostrils at the end of the beak. They also have sensory pits at the tip of the beak, allowing them to feel the vibrations of prey moving underground.
  • Kiwis have shaggy plumage with hair-like feathers and cat-like whiskers on the face and around the base of the beak. These super-sensitive whiskers have probably evolved to help them feel their way in the dark and sense the vibrations of prey.
  • Kiwi are generally nocturnal forest dwellers. During the day they sleep in burrows, hollow logs, or under thick vegetation. Kiwis can sometimes be seen during the day if food is scarce or in times of drought.
  • Kiwis have enormous eggs and one of the largest egg-to-body weight ratios of any bird. The egg weighs about 20% percent of the female’s body weight – that’s about six times as big as normal for a bird of its size.  (The ostrich egg-to-body weight ratio is 2%). The benefit of such a large egg is that the chick which weighs around 300g on hatching does not require assistance from the adults to feed.
  • Females are larger than males with a slightly longer beak
  • Adult kiwis often mate for life and are very territorial
  • Kiwi males incubate the eggs for 70-85 days
  • Chicks are fully feathered when they hatch.  They emerge from the burrow to feed after about 5 days (they are not fed by their parents)
  • Juvenile male kiwi can reach sexual maturity at 18 months and females will lay their first eggs from 3-5 years old.
  • Kiwi are long-lived depending on the species. Estimates of twenty-five to fifty years have been given, but the actual lifespan of kiwi is still not known. The oldest kiwi at the Otorohanga Kiwi House arrived as adults to found the captive brown kiwi breeding program in 1986 which makes them over 40 years old.

Meet The Stars

 

 

Image of:

Kevin the Brown Kiwi - Otorohanga Kiwi House

Name: “Miharo”

Species: Brown Kiwi (Western Provenance)

 Hatch date: 4 May 2018 
Where he lives:  Nocturnal House

 

Personality Profile:

  • ‘Miharo’ in the Maaori language means surprise. Miharo was hatched from a breeding pair where the male was 13 years old and thought to be infertile!
  • Miharo, like other young kiwis, has a high startle reflex and has been known to jump 30cm off the ground when he gets a surprise.
  • Miharo likes to snack a lot. He races out to his bowl of artificial diet, has a quick snack, then races off again to probe for live food.

 

Name: “Anahera” – (Maori: ‘Angel’)

Species: Brown Kiwi (Western Provenance)

Hatch date: Unknown. Caught in the wild in Te Wera, Taranaki in 1981 – one of the original founders of the captive Kiwi population.

Where she lives: Outdoor Pen

Personality Profile:

  • She is a very curvy lady weighing in at over 3kg – in great condition for a Kiwi girl!
  • She is a wonderful mum – currently our best-breeding female
  • Not only does she lay lots of eggs, but she likes to check up on Dad to see if he’s keeping the egg warm and safe

 

Name: “Whitu”

Species: Brown Kiwi (Western Provenance)

Hatch date:15 February 2017

Where she lives: Kiwi Night Zone

Parents:
Mum:  Kopu (Currently paired at the Kiwi House with Te Puia)
Dad:  Koko (released to the wild in September 2017 on the Eastern Side of Taranaki Mounga. He has raised at least three chicks in the wild to date)

Personality Profile:

  • Whitu was named by Governor General Dame Patsy Reedy in recognition of the fact she was the seventh chick raised at the Otorohanga Kiwi House in the season she visited.
  • Whitu loves home improvement. She likes to be in her burrow breaking up nesting material and dragging in new leaf litter. This makes the burrow nice and cozy for her and her mate Rata to snuggle into when the sun comes up.
  • Whitu is very tolerant of her mate Rata. He likes to dart around the enclosure and often taps her gently on the bottom as he follows her about.

 

Name: “Raki”

Species: Brown Kiwi (Northland Provenance)

Hatch date: Unknown. Caught in the wild as an adult in the Parakao area by Forest and Bird members and transferred to the Otorohanga Kiwi House on 17 October 1983.

Where she lives: In the ‘Barry Rowe Aviary’ (the large free-flight dome-shaped aviary)

Personality Profile:

  • Raki likes to climb up on her mesh feeder at times and usually tolerates other species like tuatara sitting beside her while she eats. If they annoy her though she will definitely give them a gentle kick to remind them she’s the boss.
  • We suspect Raki is now approximately 40 years old or older. In the past, scientists believed this would be beyond the age of producing fertile eggs so Raki was left to retire at the Otorohanga Kiwi House with her son Kaipo. Scientists now believe Brown Kiwi can live to be 50 years old or older. Raki is definitely a feisty older lady!
  • Raki loves to probe into banks and rotten logs and has a great time ripping the logs apart with her sharp claws.

 

Name: “Taina”

Species: Brown Kiwi (Western Provenance)

Hatch date:17 November 2017

Where he lives: In one of our nocturnal houses

Parents:
Mum: “Anahera”,

Dad: “Nouveau”

Personality Profile:

  • Taina is paired with Miharo at present and he is a lot braver than her with exploring new enrichment items.
  • Taina hates to be woken up for health checks and clacks his beak loudly in displeasure.
  • Taina loves to dig under logs and will nap in half-formed burrows with his beak and head covered but his bottom still showing.

MEET THE OTHER ANIMALS THEY HOUSE

 

 

 

I have mentioned earlier that they do house the NZ Native Kiwis of different breeds and species here and that is not all that they house as there are a few other animals that they look after and they are as follows:

Birds at the Otorohanga Kiwi House

The Otorohanga Kiwi House & Native Bird Park is home to many native New Zealand birds – Kiwi, ducks & waterfowl, parrots, and more.

Learn more about these creatures and when you visit listen to the unique sounds that they make. The following information that I have gathered and sourced for you all to read further is as follows on the page that is shared with you all to read from their site:

 

Reptiles at the Otorohanga Kiwi House

They also display tuatara (survivors for 225 million years!) geckoes and skinks… Learn more about these creatures here!

  • Green tree gecko
  • Tuatara

    They also house some other natives for you to see you can find more information below about this

Kea - Otorohanga Kiwi House
Tuatara - Otorohanga Kiwi House

 

Share the magic of New Zealand’s rare and special plants and animals! Visit with family and friends – the park is ideal for all ages!

 

To find out more to see for yourself some of the amazing work the sanctuary does, check out their website at by clicking here  

 

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