New Zealand's most celebrated creature, the kiwi is a secretive bird, spending the day fast asleep, concealed in logs or undergrowth. Unable to fly, it is most active at night, probing and scraping for its food on the leafy forest floor.
(Apteryx australis,There are three species of Kiwi, all of which are confined to New Zealand. They are the Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis), the Great Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx haasti) and the Little Spotted Kiwi (Apteryx oweni). With no visible wings or tail, short thick legs and hair-like plumage, the kiwi is so strange that, at first glance, it does not resemble a bird. Females are normally around 20% heavier than males, achieving a weight of around 2.2 kg, a height of 35 cm and a length of 50 cm.
A. haasti & A. oweni)
The survival of a flightless bird with the habits of the kiwi was possible because of New Zealand's lack of native flesh-eating mammals. The kiwi's habitat is mainly native forest and scrub. On the North Island, where much of the original forest has been cleared, it has colonized non-native pine forests and farmland.
The chick finally hatches, wide-eyed and fully feathered. Within a week the chick leaves the nest and rapidly becomes proficient at gathering food for itself. At the tip of the kiwi's bill are a pair of extremely sensitive nostrils which the bird uses to locate food, and to detect and recognise other birds. It also has good hearing and sensitive touch, both of which help to secure food during its night-time forages.
|The birds generally live in pairs, calling to each other to keep in contact in the dense forest. The pair defend a territory, vigorously chasing away any intruding kiwis. After mating, the female produces one or two huge eggs, each of which is about one sixth of her own bodyweight. The eggs are laid in a hole among dense vegetation, between tree roots or in a hollow log. The male then incubates the eggs for 11 weeks, the longest recorded incubation period of any bird.|
The kiwi's diet includes insects, worms, berries, seeds, fruit and the occasional small reptile or amphibian. Food is exposed by scratching through the leaf litter with its powerful claws, or by probing its bill deep into the soil to smell and feel for invertebrate prey.
The kiwi holds symbolic importance in New Zealand. Early Maori settlers prized its feathers and hunted the bird for its meat. Today, the kiwi is the country's national emblem, so much so that New Zealanders refer to themselves as 'kiwis', a term recognised throughout the world.
Human activity has placed the kiwi at some risk. Despite the efforts of conservationists, forest clearance threatens the population. Having evolved in the absence of land mammals, introduced animals have been damaging. The kiwi has no defences against egg-thieving rats, stoats and ferrets.
'IMP Wildlife Fact File', Card 5 Group 2, 1999.
The Kiwi is featured on the following New Zealand coins:
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Last modified: 05 December, 2007