The kiwi is a flightless bird native to New Zealand, being the country’s national symbol at the same time. In the recent years, the kiwi bird has become endangered. Over the past 36 years, the kiwi population has decreased by as much as 86%. The main reasons behind this fact are natural predators and the loss of habitat.
Normally, the kiwi bird is brown. This is why everyone was pleasantly surprised when a rare white kiwi bird hatched at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center near Wellington on May 1st, 2011. The small bird was named Manukura by Maori elders.
On contrary to people’s beliefs, the white kiwi is not an albino, but a rare offspring of a North Island Brown Kiwi, which is endangered. The white gene is thought to have found its way into the kiwi population of Little Barier Island after a white kiwi bird was put on the island in the last century.
It is believed that a small number of North Island brown kiwis carry a recessive white gene which both the male and female must have in order for a white kiwi to come out. This is why they are so rare, since there is only a one-in-four chance of such a pair to produce a white kiwi.
Manukura has been hand-reared by officers from the Department of Conservation, who fed her a diet of minced meat and vegetables. After this white chick created global headlines when she arrived, the staff at the Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Center could not believe their eyes when a second white kiwi bird was born in December, 2011.
The second white kiwi was named Mauriora by a local Maori tribe, which means “sustained life”. Kathy Houkamau, center manager, stated: “While every kiwi is precious, to have a second white chick is a delightful gift, especially at this time of year“. She then added: “We thought Christmas had come early in May when Manukura arrived, but now its come twice“. ( Source )
These rare off springs have the same parents, which were among the 30 kiwi birds transferred at the center in 2010 to boost the adult kiwi population. It is certain that they have the same father because he was identified by the staff at the center through his transmitter. Kathy Houkamau also said that the probability of the pair breeding again is quite high.
However, the people at the center cannot influence the pairing in any way and are unaware of whether they have produced more chicks together, unless they are white. Nevertheless, two rare white kiwi birds born the same year is quite an accomplishment. They will surely turn out to be a major attraction at the center.