At just over 217 grams, it was the tiniest egg staff at this New Zealand kiwi conservation centre had ever seen. And when the fuzzy kiwi hatchling recently emerged after 68 days of incubation, it was – no surprise here – of equally 'mini' proportions. In fact, this tiny new arrival is believed to be the smallest of its species in New Zealand. 

Tiny Kiwi Chick Myfie 14 03 2014

A national emblem, the kiwi is a quirky-looking flightless bird found only in New Zealand – and it's also critically endangered. That makes kiwi conservation a major enterprise all across the country. Rainbow Springs, were 'mini-kiwi' recently hatched, is involved in a conservation programme known as 'Operation Nest Egg' (or O.N.E. for short): kiwi eggs are retrieved from burrows, incubated artificially, and hatchlings are later released back into the wild once they've reached a goal weight. 

Why all the egg juggling? If left to hatch in the wild, kiwis face dismal odds thanks to egg-gobbling predators like stoats, ferrets, weasels and even domestic cats – only 5% of them survive to adulthood. At places like Rainbow Springs, baby kiwis can be raised in a predator-free environment until those odds improve.

The egg with mini-kiwi inside was brought in from New Zealand's Whirinaki Forest, and the tiny bird weighed just 173.5g when it hatched. But what you really need to appreciate its tiny size is to see mini-kiwi and its sibling side by size (the sibling egg was almost double the weight and 369g at hatch):

Kiwi Bird Eggs 14 03 2014
Sibling Kiwi Chicks 14 03 2014

Staff at Rainbow Springs say the reasons for the small size are a 'complete mystery' (though possible factors could be diet-related, or point to issues with the mother bird's ovaries or reproductive tract). Despite its size, the hatchling is doing well and has now been transferred to an outdoor enclosure to hone its insect-hunting skills in preparation for life in the wild. And because a kiwi of such tiny proportions needs a good name to see it through life, the naming rights were recently auctioned off online. The winning moniker? Myfie.

Images courtesy of Rainbow Springs.