Kiwi bird<<<< Back to birds
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Struthioniformes
- Family: Apterygidae
- Genus: Apteryx
- Conservation status: Not evaluated
- Habitat: Forests and dense woodland
- Food: Worms, Spiders, Insects, Fruits
- Predators: Cats, Ermines, Pigs, Dogs
- Weight: 1.3kg - 3.3kg (2.6lbs - 7.3lbs)
- Speed: 20km/h (12mph)
- Lifespan: 8 - 12 years
- Clutch size: 1 Egg
The kiwi (Aperyx australis) used to live years ago all over New Zealand. The number of these birds has been greatly reduced by intensive hunting, deforestation and predators.
The kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand. Although protected by state laws, the little bird is in danger of extinction , becoming increasingly harder to be seen in the wild. It comes out mostly at night, and spends the day hidden in its den. The kiwi bird is limited to the area of New Zealand, where it is protected by law. The bird can not fly and lives in burrows in bush forests.
The kiwi is akin to the moa bird, also unable to fly, that disappeared in the eighteenth century. A particular species of moa measures 3.7 meters and was the largest bird ever seen.
The Polynesian indigenous people of New Zealand consider these birds as sacred, belonging to the forest god. Only the chief of the old Maori warriors had the right to eat their meat and to use the feathers in crafting cloaks worn on the back.
The kiwi bird lives alone in moist woods with soft soil, easily penetrated in search of food. With a well-developed sense of smell and its long beak, it finds grubs, worms, cycads, centipedes, fallen leaves and other small animals. The food search is mainly done using the sense of smell, after adaptation to nocturnal life the eye is much regressed (it is almost blind). Hearing is well developed. It can push the entire beak into the ground to reach the desired food.
The diet consists mainly of insects and earthworms. The bird uses its long beak to extract worms and insects from the earth. The kiwi is an extremely fast bird and can easily outrun a human. The foot has three fingers, that can be used as a weapon, nicking the enemy with its sharp claws.
They are land birds, small sized, with a stocky body, and a short and thick neck. They can reach a height of 50-65cm and a weight of 1.5-4kg. Their beak is very long, approx. 15 cm, slightly bent down, at its end the nostrils open, and at the base it’s equipped with numerous hairs. The wings look like two stubs, well hidden in the feathers, the legs are short and thick, with four fingers each. The body is covered with long hazel feathers, soft, hanging down. It has short and stocky legs and has no tail. The wings hang on the sides, but it is unable to use them. Has wiry hair, gray/brown, cat-like whiskers and a long beak, slightly curved. It is the only bird that has nostrils on its beak, close to the tip. The hatchlings have the same color as adults.
Before the arrival of Maori people in New Zealand – an event which occured 1,000 years ago- kiwi birds were everywhere on these lands, having no natural predators to threaten their existence. The Maori, however, discovered that the kiwi feathers are a good material for their coats. These people named the bird after its sharp screech that seems to say ”kee-wee”.
With the arrival of the white man in the nineteenth century, the kiwi began to be sought to be taken to zoos, museums and private collections worldwide. The introduction of non-native predators such as wild cats and possums, had also a negative effect on the kiwi bird population, along with deforestation, gin traps and deaths from motor cars.
The six types of kiwi are : North Island brown kiwi, small spotted kiwi, great spotted kiwi, brown Okario, Haast Tokoeka and Southern Tokoeka. The bird is almost blind and can only see a few meters ahead. The females hatches an extremely large egg. In fact a 2,2 kg bird can hatch an egg weighing half a kg. Kiwis can live up to the age of 40 years.
In 1991, New Zealand launched a program of conservation and reconstruction of the kiwi population to save the bird from extinction. Despite this, the kiwi continues to disappear at a rate of 5,8% per year. The program has some success regarding the controlled reproduction, and the work of the people involved will help the birds to continue to live among us for a while.Subspecies:
- Apteryx haastii Great spotted kiwi
- Apteryx owenii Little spotted kiwi
- Apteryx rowi Okarito brown kiwi
- Apteryx australis Southern brown kiwi
- Apteryx mantelli North Island brown kiwi
During breeding they live in pairs. The female lays two to four eggs, at long intervals. In relation to the body sizethese are very heavy, reaching 450 grams. Using her powerful claws, she digs some holes in tree roots where she lays the eggs. They are hatched only by the male. After about three months, the hatchlings break the shell and come out already covered with feathers. 
Predators: cats, ermines, pigs, dogs.
Did you know that:
Kiwi number has been greatly reduced by intensive hunting, deforestation and predators.
Kiwi bird is unable to fly.
Lives alone in moist woods with soft soil.
Kiwi diet consists mainly of insects and earthworms.
The eggs are hatched only by the male.