Two-week-old kiwi chick pokes its beak into the world

IN a possible world first, a Russell couple has filmed a wild two-week-old kiwi and both its parents emerging from a nest in the dead of night.

The nest is, in fact, a locally-designed and manufactured roofed box with two small entrances that Eoin Harwood and Lisette Collins have placed in the bush on their property, Russell Nature Walks, between Okiato Point and Russell.

They leave the nest bare and the kiwi that inhabit the hills conduct a DIY operation by filling the box with twigs, bark, plant detritus and other material for warmth and nesting.

We believe this is the first time a kiwi in the wild, in the middle of the night ... has been filmed in its natural environment.

-Lisette Collins, Russell Nature Walks

Ms Collins is a qualified ecologist with a BSc and MSC (with honours) and continues to do consultancy work.

Apart from strategically placing the box in the bush, she leaves the kiwi entirely alone, not even feeding them because, she says, the habitat provides them with everything they need.

"It's up to them whether they use the box or not," she said. "But it provides a drier environment, the eggs don't suffer from disease and dogs can't lift the roof of the box up to get to them."

This two-week-old kiwi chick is about to take its first steps outside its nesting box.
This two-week-old kiwi chick is about to take its first steps outside its nesting box. Russell Nature Walks

What they did add, though, was another locally designed and built product, an infrared night camera positioned up a tree close to the kiwi nesting box. It's motion-sensitive so every time any of the kiwi steps outside it is captured digitally.

This week they, and the world, got their first glimpse of a very young kiwi popping out of the nest for the first time, followed shortly after by mum and dad.

"Some captive kiwi have been filmed at night but we believe this is the first time a kiwi in the wild, in the middle of the night when it's exceptionally dark, has been filmed in its natural environment," she said.

The couple run Russell Nature Walks which started as a kiwi and weka conservation project on the property they bought six years ago.

Mr Harwood's family had lived in the area for 80 years so there was a connection with the land and after the couple had done travelling (cycling around Europe, Asia, UK and Africa) and then living in Tauranga for a few years, the pair returned home.

"Eoin had done conservation trapping for various groups and when he found out there were kiwi on this property, he thought he had hit the jackpot," Ms Collins said.

They planted trees to feed native birds and adopted rodent control around the house.

Now they have free-range weka on the property that come close to the bush hut they use as an office and, because these are day-time foraging birds, they're much easier to see than kiwi.

Mr Harwood said North Island weka are far more rare than is generally known, and for every four kiwis in the wild there is only one weka.

As a former professional trapper he said the ambition to see New Zealand predator-free by 2050 is laudable and will make a huge difference to the environment.

"There will be a variety of methods used and even if there's a 1080 drop in some parts you can see the plant, insect and bird population increase," he said.

"If New Zealand becomes predator-free you will see all that explode."