Kiwi, the flightless bird, holds utmost importance in the culture of New Zealand and the name Kiwi is used as a demonym for the people of New Zealand. It is due to New Zealand’s long prehistoric isolation from the outside world that a unique bird like Kiwi still exists. Reduced to a very insignificant population, they are a rare privilege to watch. Due to the long isolation, they have evolved to inhabit and live the way mammals do elsewhere. Flightless and greyish-brown in colour, the Kiwis belong to the genus Apteryx. They resemble the size of a domestic chicken and are the smallest living ratites that include other flightless birds like ostriches, emu, rheas, and the extinct New Zealand moa. Below are some more interesting and amazing facts about this unique creature.
Scientific Names: Apteryx mantelli
Order: Struthioniformes (or Apterygiformes)
Species: Apteryx haastii, Apteryx owenii, Apteryx owenii, and Apteryx australis
Height: 50 cm
Weight: 800 g to 1 kg
Lifespan: Upto 40 years
Diet: Worms, spiders, bugs, grubs and fruit, freshwater crayfish, frogs and eels
Range: New Zealand
Habitat: Sea level to alpine environments, in scrubland, farmland, swamps, pine forest and vegetated gullies.
Age of Sexual Maturity: 18 months (males); 3 years (females)
Gestation Period: 80 days
Incubation Period: 63 to 92 days
Number of Offspring: 1
Interesting And Fun Facts About Kiwi
- In the late 19th century, kiwi appeared as national symbol on the regimental batches in New Zealand. Since then kiwi became the national symbol of New Zealand.
- North Island Brown Kiwi, Great Spotted Kiwi, Lesser Spotted Kiwi, Rowi, and Tokoeka are the five species of kiwi, and all of these species are endangered.
- Great Spotted Kiwi or Roroa is the largest species of kiwi, measuring 50 cm in height and weighing about 3.3 kg.
- Little Spotted Kiwi or Apteryx, which is 35-45 cm tall and weighs 0.9 to 1.9 kg, is the smallest species of kiwi.
- Rowi, also known as Okarito Kiwi or Okarito Brown Kiwi or Apteryx Rowi was first discovered in the year 1994.
- The size of Tokoeka is same as that of great spotted kiwi to some extent. Stewart Island Southern Brown Kiwi of Steward Island, Northern Fiordland Southern Brown Kiwi and Southern Fiordland Tokoeka of Fiordland, and Haast Southern Brown Kiwi of the haast range in the southern alps are the subspecies of Tokoeka.
- Many researchers believed that kiwis are closely related to moa but recent DNA studies have showed that they are more closely related to the emu.
- Kiwis are shy and usually nocturnal in nature.
- They are the only birds with nostrils at the end of their elongated beaks. Because of such design, they are able to accurately locate insects and worms from the earth.
- Kiwis are few among the birds with keen sense of smell.
- Kiwis eat small invertebrates, seeds, grubs, and many varieties of worms. They also prey on eels, small crayfish, and amphibians.
- Kiwis form monogamous couple and have been known to live together for as long as 30 years.
- A kiwi egg can weigh up to one fourth the weight of the female. The egg takes 30 days to develop and the mother kiwi has to consume three times her normal amount of food.
- Just two to three days before laying the egg, there remains little or no space inside the female kiwi and therefore she is forced to fast.
- The male kiwi incubates the egg except for the Great Spotted Kiwi, where both the parents are involved in incubation.
- Unlike other birds that have hollow bones to facilitate their flight, kiwis have bone marrow like mammals.
- As of 2007, only 13 zoos outside New Zealand have kiwis.
- The kiwi’s habits and physical characteristics are so much like mammals that the bird is referred to as ‘honorary mammal’.
- When the Maori people first set foot on New Zealand, there were about 12 million kiwis but today their number has reduced to almost 50,000.
- Kiwi’s name comes from the Polynesian name for the bristle–thighed curlew. This bird has the same way of feeding, which includes poking its long beak in soft ground.
- A kiwi’s legs are very strong and it uses them to burrow and rip apart rotten logs.
- Female kiwis are larger and heavier than males.
- The kiwi’s average body temperature is 38°C which is two degrees lower than other birds and two degrees higher than humans.
- Kiwis have no tail and their feathers resemble more like hair. Their legs are strong and fleshy with each of the four toes having large claws.
- Kiwis have poor eyesight and they are unable to see properly even in broad daylight.
- At night while searching for food kiwis are known to make snuffling noise, which is caused due to clearing the dirt out of its nostrils.
- Kiwis devoutly guard their territory (patch) that can extend to 40 hectares and can chase intruders to fight with their extremely sharp claws.
- The famous kiwi shoe polish was launched in Melbourne in 1906 by an Australian man whose wife belonged to New Zealand.
- A fruit with Chinese origin is extensively farmed in New Zealand and exported throughout the world, is also known by the name of kiwi.
- The national rugby team of New Zealand is known as the kiwis.
- Images of kiwis can be found in every part of New Zealand in the form of badges, crests, and coat of arms in many clubs and organizations. They are also printed on New Zealand’s currency notes.
- The Department of Conservation has set up various kiwi sanctuaries in New Zealand in order to protect and increase the number of kiwis.
- Operation nest egg has been started by “BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust”, where the kiwi eggs are collected from the forest and then thatched in captivity. Later the off-springs are introduced to the wild when they become capable of defending themselves.