Kiwi Barker makes a rare appearance

One of the rarest birds in New Zealand has been gifted the name of one of New Zealand's most prolific sportsmen.

With Team New Zealand’s victory at the America’s Cup edging ever closer, there could be no better time to be a New Zealander.

But Dean Barker and his crew - currently challenging Oracle for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco - are not the only iconic Kiwis grabbing the headlines.

It seems the excitement of the recent races may have had an effect on kiwi hatching season with the early arrival of the first rowi chick - the rarest kiwi in the world - at the West Coast Wildlife Centre at Franz Josef, in the South Island.

Weighing in at a mere 375gm the tiny kiwi has been gifted the name "Barker" after Team New Zealand’s prolific skipper.

Rowi kiwi
There are less than 400 rowi kiwi left in the wild, making it the rarest species of New Zealand’s most famous icon.

The flightless bird is unique to the Okarito Kiwi Sanctuary near Franz Josef, in the South Westland of New Zealand, making the work the West Coast Wildlife Centre does, all that more special.

The precious "Barker" took 46.5 days to hatch and will now spend the first week getting used to an incubator before moving into a personalised brooder room where chicks spend 4 - 6 weeks before being introduced to life in the open.

"It has been a really exciting start to the hatching season - 26 eggs [are] already incubating and we are expecting to successfully hatch up to 80 chicks this season alone," said kiwi ranger Kim.

West Coast Wildlife Centre
The West Coast Wildlife Centre is the largest kiwi hatching facility of its kind in the South Island and received high praise when it was judged by Lonely Planet as one of its top 12 favourite places to visit in New Zealand.

At the Centre visitors can go "behind the scenes" with a look at the kiwi hatching and rearing facilities. Visitors can also meet the dedicated team of kiwi rangers and see the world’s rarest kiwis, including the Haast tokoeka, up close in the nocturnal house and bush walkway.

Inside the all-weather facility visitors can also enjoy West Coast storytelling and interactive glacier displays.

Kiwis for Kiwi
Since opening in November 2010, the West Coast Wildlife Centre has released a total of 95 kiwis in partnership with the Department of Conservation (DOC) and "Kiwis for Kiwi" - The Kiwi Trust.

Numerous businesses, dedicated locals and visitors to New Zealand have supported the West Coast Wildlife Centre’s kiwi sponsorship programme, which helps the West Coast Wildlife Centre to fund purchasing kiwi food, incubation and brooder room equipment, veterinary products and build new facilities - all helping to preserve New Zealand’s iconic national treasure.

More information

Bird conservation in New Zealand

Iconic New Zealand birds