New Zealand is an archipelago of islands located off the coast of Australia’s southeastern border. Lush rainforests conceal a high level of endemic species of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects, many of which are found only in New Zealand. First colonized by humans 700 years ago, hunting, deforestation, among other signs of human presence has already taken toll on both the flora and fauna native of this beautiful land.

The kiwi bird is the most cherished bird in New Zealand. It is about the size of a chicken and is nocturnal in its nature. Their name originates from their distinct shrill cry “kee-wee-kee-wee” that comes from the male kiwi birds. The female kiwi birds have more of a hoarse throaty call. Though they are the same size of chickens they lay eggs the size of ostrich eggs. The kiwi bird is flightless and has a long beak that is one third the length of its body. The kiwi digs up and devours worms with the help of its long beak. Unlike most birds who have excellent eyesight and a poor to non-existent sense of smell, the kiwi bird is almost blind. During the day it can only see up to two feet in front of its body and during the night about six feet. It is unusual as a bird to smell their prey rather than see it. This is why the kiwi bird has been referred to as an “honorary mammal.” Another interesting feature of the kiwi bird is that it has no external tail, robust sharp clawed legs, and they have “thick grayish brown hair-like feathers.” They are a stout bird Over their lifespan they haven’t evolved much at all. The kiwi bird is suspected to be about eight million years old, meaning they are about 7 million years older than human beings.

The biggest threats to kiwi birds seem to be predators that have been introduced by humans to the New Zealand habitat. This list of predators includes many common household pets such as dogs, cats, ferrets, and stoats. The introduction of these new predators has led to a very low number of about 10% of all kiwi chicks living to the age of six months where they first begin to defend themselves. Lesser, but just as harmful, threats to the wellbeing of kiwi include changes to their habitat such as the altering or loss of the areas in which they live. This limited environment also has an affected increase of their risk to the negative effects of inbreeding. Fatalities are also often found roadside as a result of motor vehicles, where the kiwi are forced out of their limited environments to find basic needs.

There are many groups and organizations that support and assist in the recovery of the Kiwi. Some of these groups cover big issues and assist in helping the biodiversity hotspot. These larger groups use donation money in specific areas they believe they can be the most use. They promote recovery of the area, saving what vegetation and forest that is left, research and spreading the word.

Smaller groups such as trusts and local conservation efforts rely on volunteers to help on more onsite and assist in the recovery of the species. Both groups also rely on educating the upcoming generation about preserving biodiversity and warning them of the cons of not saving what we have.

Groups such as Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust, Karori Sanctuary Trust and BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust focus on restoring pockets of the environment, pest control, research and assisting in the procreation of the kiwi species. Most of these groups appear to have made some progress in saving the Kiwi from extinction from worldwide and local efforts.




9 responses »

  1. I really enjoyed reading this note and found out so many interesting points! Although many people are fond of kiwis because of their look, I doubt we have an extensive knowledge on their fascinating habits and how long they have been on the planet. I found it amazing to read about kiwi’s anatomy (from a beak to the eyes) and what danger they face everyday. They are such unique birds/mammals.

    I researched more on the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust and read some really engaging notes on the website and saw pictures of the work that volunteers do. I think it is really great that people have such dedication and belief in a cause and try to change the world, saving one tiny species. I though their work process really shows the strong interest in kiwis:
    ‘During the kiwi breeding season, the Trust’s experts work staff to maximise the chances of chick survival. Fertilised kiwi eggs are taken from the wild to a specialised incubation facility.’
    I was also impressed to find out how they engage the local community and educate adults and school children about the issue and how they could help.

    – Kasia (Katarzyna) Dybek

  2. Ally says:

    I would have never thought that these cute little birds would suffer so much under human influence. What shocked me was that one of their top predators happened common house hold pets. A cat is understandable, but dogs?
    After learning that they mostly eat worms, I wondered why people would want the dogs catch the birds.

    The video practically sold me on googling more about these birds. I find it so fascinating that these small fragile birds are also responsible for laying one of the largest eggs! Definitely an entertaining article to read!


  3. caitlinrdavis says:

    I was blown away when I discoverd that they lay eggs the size of ostrich eggs! It’s interesting that they have not been known to have evolved much in their existence since they have features that could certainly lead them to extinction. For instance, they cannot fly and have poor vision which makes them vulunerable to predators. I have always adored this creature and I hope that people continue to help save this bird from extinction.

  4. kristysiciliano says:

    i didn’t know a lot about kiwis but after reading this i learned a lot, it’s so interesting how they’re nocturnal and don’t really have a sense of smell, very interesting !

  5. Ashley Raynor says:

    Love, love, love kiwi birds! I think I’ll go purchase that kiwi bird backpack I saw an Aussie wearing in the airport when I was 8.

  6. April Marcuzzo says:

    Learned some new facts reading this 🙂

  7. patrick bradford says:

    I had no idea that these were real… i saw the animation and thought, wow thats a really…ugly kinda cute maybe kind of character BUT THESE BIRDS ARE AMAZING and i am very happy they are actually in existence. it must be painful to lay ostrich sized eggs if they are only the size of chickens…

  8. Grace Betts says:

    I love kiwis and the biodiversity hotspot of New Zealand. I had no idea that they have been on the planet 6 million years longer than humans in almost the same form. I also found the video of the white kiwi to be amazing, the fact that it wasn’t albino was quite surprising.

  9. Wow really don’t like that video the little kiwi looks so sad and the music was painful. I did like learning about the kiwi though. I really hadn’t known anything before.

    ~CJ Hipp

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