Kiwis: Little Footballs with Beaks

The endemic flightless kiwi is a national icon

Image via Wikipedia

(For my friend Steve who wondered when I’d posting about birds.)

So in a previous post, I’m sure I mentioned how much I love Australia. I definitely forgot to add New Zealand. I was lucky enough to travel to both places a few years ago and I have an even greater love of how gorgeous they are. But that’s beside the point. From a biological point of view, the separation of those land masses attributed to their unique flora and fauna. One of my favorite examples of that fascinating fauna is the kiwi.

– Scientific Classification –

There are 5 species of kiwi: Great Spotted, Little Spotted, Okarito Brown, Southern Brown and North Island Brown.

They are the smallest ratite (flightless bird), about the size of a chicken, and do actually have a very small, pretty useless, set of wings. This national symbol of New Zealand is endangered (all species) and threatened by deforestation and invasive mammalian predators. Before the Maori tribe settled in NZ, the kiwi had to predators. Kiwis are more closely related to emus and cassowaries (another cool bird) than the extinct moa as once hypothesized. They are a shy, generally nocturnal bird that can inhabit a variety of habitats. Using their great sense of smell, kiwis use the nostrils at the tip of their beaks to locate underground worms and insects to eat.

Kiwis form lifelong, monogamous pair bonds which can last up to two decades. Unlike many other birds, females have a functioning pair of ovaries (as opposed to just a singular ovary).

One of my favorite things about the kiwi is the ENORMOUS eggs they lay. Labor is intense for birds anyway, but the poor little kiwi seems to have it the worst with the largest egg size to body size ratio (up to 1/4 the weight of the female). If you’re brave enough, have a look:

Side story: In NZ, they had a night-like enclosure with two adorable kiwis inside. While one stood stationary, the other was tearing around the enclosure like crazy. When the rampaging bird got too close to the calmer one, it got pecked at, thrown off track and sent tumbling. It was probably the most adorable bird tumble ever.

Speaking of adorable, here’s a cute video that I found a while back:

Sources:

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