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AAT Kings' Easter Egg Hunt: Kiwi Bird Eggs

Posted: 13 April 2017

On our journey around Australia and New Zealand we've discovered Emu, Platypus, Little Penguin, Echidna and Tuatara eggs! Our search for Australia and New Zealand’s incredible Easter Eggs comes to a close as we uncover the adorable flightless Kiwi Bird. These little guys are truly unique, and you won’t believe how big their eggs are!

Kiwi 1

The Kiwi bird is a unique and native bird to New Zealand. There are five different species of Kiwi that all need our help to prevent them from becoming extinct. These include: the Brown Kiwi, Great Spotted Kiwi (Roroa), the Little Spotted Kiwi, Rowi and also Tokoeka. It has unique and unusual characteristics including the inability to fly, loose hair-like feathers, strong legs, no tail and one of the largest eggs in relation to its body in the world.

The Kiwi bird’s egg in proportion to its body size is huge. The female Kiwi will lay an egg bigger than almost any other bird. The Kiwi’s eggs are 6 times bigger than the normal egg for a bird of its size. While laying such a large egg can be painful, it also has its advantages. Most bird eggs are 35-40% yolk, however, the Kiwi’s egg is approximately 65% yolk. This yolk contains all the nutrition necessary so that when the Kiwi chicks hatch, they’re already fully feathered and independent.

 Kiwi 2

For the Kiwi to produce such a large egg, it must eat 3 times as much as usual. Just before the egg is laid, the female must fast for 2 or 3 days as the egg takes up so much room. Most Kiwis lay one egg with the exception of the Brown Kiwi, which will usually lay two eggs. A female Kiwi can lay up to 100 eggs in her lifetime. The first sign that the chick is ready to hatch is when the egg jiggles slightly. The Kiwi chick then has the exhausting job of kicking and pecking its way out of the egg.

The Kiwi is able to survive in many different environments, from snowy mountains and coastal sand dunes through to forest floors and farmed grasslands. The Kiwis are described as breeding machines; if you were to take away its predators, the Kiwi would successfully be in high population again.

Meet a Kiwi bird at Rainbow Springs National Park on our Contrasts of New Zealand Guided Holiday.

Alana Auld, AAT Kings

AAT Kings' Easter Egg Hunt: Echidna Eggs

Posted: 9 April 2017

Ouch, watch your step! We just found a spiny animal who lays a single egg at a time – what could be inside? It’s a baby Echidna of course! Have you read about the Emu, Platypus, Little Penguin eggs we've already discovered around Australia?

Echidna 1

The Echidna is one of oldest surviving mammal on the planet today – not to mention the oldest surviving egg laying mammal. There are 4 subspecies of short-beaked Echidna found in Australia. They can be found all over Australia and are able survive extreme temperatures. The short-beaked Echidna varies in colour depending on their location. In the hotter northern regions, the Echidna is light brown - they become darker with thicker hair further south. In Tasmania, the Echidna is black. The Echidna’s spines cover its head, back and tail. The spines are straw-coloured with black tips; the purpose of these being defence. They can weigh anywhere between 2-7 kilograms.

The breeding season for an Echidna occurs between July and August. As the Echidna is a Monotreme, they produce young from eggs which are hatched outside their body. During the breeding season the female Echidna develops a pouch in which she lays a single egg. This egg takes up to 10 days to hatch. The baby Echidna is carried around in its mother’s pouch for about 3 months, during which the female will sometimes drop it into a burrow for protection. By the time the young Echidna leaves the pouch the spine has started to develop, however it will still stay close to the mother.

Echinda 2

With a strong sense of smell, the Echidna uses its long hairless snout to search for food, detect danger and also locate other Echidnas. Termites are their preferred food. The Echidnas will catch their prey with a long sticky tongue. As they have no teeth it will grind the food between its tongue and the bottom of its mouth.

The Echidna has been known to live as long as 16 years in the wild but generally the life span is thought to be under 10 years. 

Mirima National Park in Kununurra is home to many Echidna. Home to a big variety of wildlife, visit Mirima National Park on our Wonders of the Kimberley Guided Holiday.

Alana Auld, AAT Kings

AAT Kings' Easter Egg Hunt: Little Penguin Eggs

Posted: 7 April 2017

So far we’ve collected an Emu and Platypus egg on our Easter Egg Hunt around Australia and New Zealand. Now we’ve stumbled across the very cute Little Penguin – we’re wondering what its eggs look like! 

Penguins 1

The Little Penguin (or blue penguin as it’s referred to in New Zealand) is named that way due to the dark blue feathers along its back and that they only grow up to about 33cm in height. The penguin’s little wings are more useful for swimming rather than flying as they make for perfect flippers.

Both the male and female penguins take turns in taking care of their young before they’ve hatched from their eggs. The female usually lays around 2 eggs per mating season and they’re no bigger than a chickens’ egg. They take just over a month before they hatch and after 2-3 months, the parents leave the little chick to fend for themselves!

Penguins 2

These Penguins spend up to 80% of their lives at sea swimming and hunting for food. When they return, it’s usually only to feed and raise their young or just to take a break after days or weeks spent at sea. Penguins are ‘counter shaded’ (blue backs and white bellies) in order to protect them from predators. The blue back helps them blend in to the water and hides them from those preying on them from above, meanwhile the white belly helps hide them from any predators that may be looking up from the bottom of the ocean.

You can see these cute little penguins up-close on our Phillip Islands - Penguins, Kangaroos and Koalas Full Day Tour.

Dane Hinchy, AAT Kings

AAT Kings' Easter Egg Hunt: Platypus Eggs

Posted: 5 April 2017

So far on our Easter Egg Hunt around Australia and New Zealand, we’ve discovered the big and beautiful Emu egg. What a find! Next we’re going to be looking for the deeply buried Platypus egg. 

Platypus 1

The Platypus is a semi-aquatic, egg-laying mammal which lives strictly along the east coast of Australia. Along with the 4 species of Echidna, it is one of five species of mammals that lay eggs instead of giving birth, making it a Monotreme. When it was first discovered, European scientists thought the animal was a hoax as it is so unlike any other animal that lives today. The Platypus also has its place among fame, as it is the animal emblem of New South Wales.

The Platypus generally lives in a little dugout that sits just above the waterline of their river. During mating season, the female will dig this hole another 20m deeper into the earth, in order to protect the young that are on the way. A female will lay around 1-3 eggs per breeding season and will guard them until they are roughly 4-5 months old. From here, they will then leave the burrow and begin their new life outside of the home. The eggs that these young monotremes hatch from are generally quite small and have a leathery texture.

Platypus 2

The Platypus has other special features as well. It is able to push water out of its skin and fur until it is dry, meaning it can leave the water to enter its burrow, but can be dry before it gets to its nest. Even though the female and male Platypus both have spurs on their back legs that they use for defence, the male Platypus’s spurs are actually venomous.

There's been sighting of cute little platypus' playing around at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Maybe you'll see one too on our Perfect Tasmania Guided Holiday!

Dane Hinchy, AAT Kings

AAT Kings' Easter Egg Hunt: Emu Eggs

Posted: 3 April 2017

AAT Kings are embarking on an Easter Egg Hunt around Australia and New Zealand! We’re going to be exploring these regions looking for some unique eggs from all sorts of furry, feathery, spikey and scaly friends. First off we’ve found one of Australia's Emu eggs.

Emu 1

The Emu lays one of the largest eggs in the world. The Emu egg, on average, is 13cm tall and around 9cm wide. Emu eggs take around 50 days to incubate due to their size. The Emu’s egg varies from female to female but is generally a large dark green egg that’s covered with white speckles and has a slightly rough texture. Once the female Emu has laid her 7-10 eggs, she will leave them in the nest that the male has built and will leave him to take care of them over the next 8 weeks. The male will stay with the chicks for up to 7 months teaching them how to find food before he lets them go live their own lives.

Emu 2

The Emu is the second largest living bird in the world by height! It’s believed that Emu’s have been on Earth for over 80 million years. It lives only in Australia and is the only member of Genus Dromaius (Emu Family) left, as the Tasmanian Emu and the King Island Emu are now extinct.

Even though the Emu has wings, it’s unable to fly. It is covered in soft, brown feathers, has a long neck and legs and can stand up to 1.9 metres in height! Amazingly, the Emu is able to run at speeds of up to 50km/h! The Emu also finds itself on the Coat of Arms along with the Kangaroo as they’re the only 2 Australian animals that cannot walk backwards!

Keep your eye out for Emu's in the Flinders Ranges on our Outback Adventure Guided Holiday!

Dane Hinchy, AAT Kings

KIWI FACTS: New Zealand's Precious Native Bird

Posted: 13 March 2017

In the lovely region of Rotorua, New Zealand, you’ll find quite a few amazing attractions such as Lake Rotorua, Kuirau Park foot pools, Lake Okareka Boardwalk and Rainbow Springs Nature Park, just to name a few. Rainbow Springs Nature Park nestles itself alongside the beautiful rain forests of Rotorua, NZ. The Park offers a family friendly, educational experience that aims to educate anyone and everyone about New Zealand’s diverse, fascinating and dynamic natural history. Rainbow Springs Nature Park also offers its guests a chance to get up close and personal with the creatures of New Zealand that call Rainbow Springs’ home.

Rainbow Springs 1

One of the little creatures that calls Rainbow Springs home is the cute little Kiwi! The iconic Kiwi bird, a national treasure to New Zealand is quite the odd little animal… Unlike most birds, the Kiwi is renowned for its incredible sense of smell and being a nocturnal animal. Similar to the kiwi fruit, the kiwi bird is more furry then feathery and is also flightless. Most birds have light, hollow bones which allow them to fly, but the Kiwi has adapted to life on the ground as they have heavy bones and very strong leg muscles. In fact they’re so unlike normal birds that the feathers on the Kiwi itself have more similar qualities to the fur on mammals than it does with the feathers of other birds.

Rainbow Springs 2

The Nature Park prides itself on the conservation work they do with this endangered species. Rainbow Springs first became involved in Kiwi conservation in 1975, and in 1995, joined the Operation Nest Egg programme (O.N.E) when they received their first egg from the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary. Since 1995, Rainbow Springs has helped greatly in boosting the population of the Brown Kiwi in New Zealand’s North Island.

Rotoruas' Rainbow Springs now receives eggs from 15 different sanctuaries and reserves around the North Island of the country, meaning that it is New Zealand’s’ leading Kiwi hatchery as over 1500 eggs have been hatched at Rainbow Springs since 1995! An incredible achievement in the contribution to the survival of such an endangered animal!

The Department of Conservation staff, along with the field teams, keeps a close eye on the male kiwis during the breeding process and at the right time, the teams will safely take the eggs from the burrows of the kiwis and put them into incubation in the Kiwi Encounter Centre. This process allows the team to monitor the hatching process and let the young chicks hatch in peace, away from the very real danger of predators.

Rainbow Springs 3

Here at AAT Kings, we aim to do all we can in support of the conservation of New Zealand’s iconic native Kiwi bird. We contribute to the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Breeding Program in Rotorua which, in turn, helps the Department of Conservation staff raise and hatch the chicks, perform necessary health checks, monitor their well being day by day and research further into the incubation and rearing of the iconic Kiwi bird. All in all we aim to assist Rainbow Springs as much as we can by helping raise awareness about the vital protection of this national icon and play a vital role in their survival.

To read more about how AAT Kings support the Rainbow Springs Kiwi Breeding Program and other wildlife conservation programs read more about the Treadright Foundation.

 

TEN THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT THE KIWI BIRD:

1)  Even though the Kiwi Bird has wings, it cannot fly.

2)  Kiwi Birds are nocturnal and therefore feed at night.

3) In relation to the size of the bird laying the egg, the Kiwi Bird lays the largest egg in the world.

4) It is the only bird in the world with nostrils at the end of its beak.

5) It has marrow in it's bones, just like humans.

6) Female Kiwi Birds have 2 ovaries, whereas most other birds only have 1.

7) Its feathers are more like fur.

8) The Kiwi Bird has whiskers, similar to those of a cat.

9) At night, the Kiwi Bird predominantly uses it's smell of smell to find it's way around rather than its eyes.

10) The Kiwi Bird is able to dig and hunt for food with its beak to the depth of 12cm.

 

 

Dane Hinchy, AAT Kings

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